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Flight delays -- is this normal?

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Jun 18th, 2016, 02:01 PM
  #1
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Flight delays -- is this normal?

I don't fly often -- maybe once a year, go international maybe every other year. But my last two international flights have been delayed and I wonder if that is trend. Early in June, I had 7:28 p.m. Delta flight leaving Atlanta for Dublin. First, the flight was delayed for 2 hours because the plane was late coming in from Rome. Then, after we boarded, the pre-flight check showed problem and we all disembarked, waited, were told that a part would be replaced (but engine had to cool down first so that could be done). Scary part was being told after midnight that if work was not completed by 2 a.m., the crew would have exceeded the regulation duty time and would have to "stand down". A question about what would happen then was not answered. We were able to take off at 1:58 a.m. and had a smooth flight then to Dublin but did arrived 6 1/2 hours late. Returning home, take off was delayed by 2 hours because the plane was late arriving from Atlanta (where its previous evening take off had been pushed back because of thunderstorms). That was no problem for us but the folks in the seats behind us were worrying about their connecting flights.
Two years before, our plane was 3 hours late taking off from Atlanta for Amsterdam (also because of mechanical problem but this time they substituted another plane). We missed, by just a few minutes, our connecting flight to Berlin so were about 3 hours late arriving. In all cases, we had smooth flights and I know that is the most important thing but it seems planes may be expected to "turn around" very quickly these days and that is leading to problems?
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Jun 18th, 2016, 02:48 PM
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It happens a lot and will probably happen more in the future, particularly with companies that have small or aging fleets, though the major causes of delay are weather and air traffic.

Airline turnarounds are scheduled to allow for safety checks and minor repairs, but the planes themselves are amazingly reliable. The main time issue between landing and taking off again is getting the plane cleaned and restocked.

There are certain problems that have to be fixed before the plane can take off, and there are minor problems that are the captain's option. No one will delay a flight because someone's in-seat entertainment is broken, but they will absolutely fix crucial stuff. Pilots don't want to die.

Lengthy equipment delays usually mean that they don't have the part at wherever and have to put it on the next scheduled flight from the nearest maintenance hub.

I got stuck overnight in Lincoln, NE, when our United flight had a flat tire. They flew in a new tire from Chicago on the next flight, but then it turned out that Lincoln didn't have the right kind of jack. No more planes that night, so it had to be flown in the next day.
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Jun 18th, 2016, 02:58 PM
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You had worse luck than usual. Storms in Atlanta are common in summer though, and everything is a mess (though if you are late, chances are the connecting flights will be too).

The mechanical on the outbound is an occasional hazard - - it looks like you had the bad luck of a double whammy.

I've been flying 4 Delta round-trips to Europe every year for about 15 years and haven't had delays like the ones you describe (most eastbound flights actually arrive early due to westerly winds), but every now and then something similar happens on my domestic flights. Mechanicals happen, and weather happens.
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Jun 18th, 2016, 03:28 PM
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I've flown Delta five or six times from the US to/from Europe over the last few years, just as recently as a few weeks ago. My recent Delta flights to/from Amsterdam were right on time. A few years ago, my flight from Amsterdam was about two hours late flying home because, they told us, some navigation computer was busted and they could still fly but were required to stay closer to land, so they had to fly a modified flight plan.

I try to avoid any connecting flight in the US when going to Europe these days, just to avoid having my vacation ruined by a flight delay. (Flying from the US to Europe, you tend to arrive in the morning, usually giving you plenty of time to find alternate flights to a connection if you are late.) I think it's wise to plan for delays: what would you do if you arrive six hours late? If you have a connecting flight that's part of your paid ticket, you'll automatically get put on the next flight out, but what if there isn't another one that day? I always check on things like that.

(On my recent trip, although my Delta flights were right on time, mt airBaltic flight leaving Amsterdam for Vilnius left two hours late, and my FinnAir flight from Helsinki back to Amsterdam was an hour late. So go figure!)

It could be Atlanta, being such a busy airport, is prone to more delays than average. You can check a flight's history of delays online; I usually check out my upcoming international flight's daily performance a week or two before departure just to see on average how it is performing lately. My flight to Amsterdam was usually on time, occasionally a tad early or tad late. The week before I flew, the same flight I was to take did leave four hours late for some reason but that seems to have been a rare thing. It happens!
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Jun 18th, 2016, 03:33 PM
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Twice, my transatlantic flight has been cancelled entirely - once for labour dispute, once for mechanical reasons. The second time I was happy - got a free day in Rome! That said, most times things have been fine.

But I always design our itineraries with lots of leeway just in case.
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Jun 18th, 2016, 04:16 PM
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A recent AA flight to Hong Kong from DFW was delayed an hour and a half for a mechanical problem after we had boarded. The new part arrived and then we had the scheduled 16.5 hours of flying after that. It was a new aircraft.
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Jun 18th, 2016, 05:52 PM
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I used to travel a lot of business - a in 50 to 60 trip per year - not flights but trips - so well over 100 flights. Granted most were fairly short haul but a number were cost to coast and several every year were international.

My guess is that there are significant delays (an hour or more) every 10 to 15 flights - more often on the shorter flights when the plane makes several hops in one day and a delay at any airport also delays all subsequent flights.

And now, when so many flights are totally full - meaning boarding and disembarking take longer - as does cleaning out the plane - short delays wlll be more common.

Longer delays due to severe weather or mechanical problems just happen sometimes. I would guess you hit a couple in a row and will probably now get a bunch on time.

But I have been had flights cancelled on me in Chicago (last of the day in snow and I had to drum up a place to stay), been delayed for 6 hours on a flight to Denver (in the summer with no AC, no food and only a small bottle of water), and had a bunch of other 2 to3 hour delays.

One flight to Cincy was cancelled since the plane needed repairs they could not do on the spot and there was no other plane. I called my agent but got to the desk agent first and they offered me a flight to Cincy on Monday. This was Thurs night and I was going for a congress from Fri to Sun, returning Sunday night. They couldn't understand why I refused the Monday flight. Got our corporate agent on the phone a couple of minutes later and they go me a flight (different airline) the following morning at 8 am. So I told Delta to just refund my flight - they made a fuss and I said fine - corporate travel will handle.

The frustration there was not the mechanical problem but in not even checking when people to be needed where - and who might be interested in free tickets for a later date.
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Jun 18th, 2016, 09:38 PM
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I think it is not uncommon for flights to be delayed for a variety of reasons, as you have seen yourself.

All the more reason to book connecting flights through one single booking. That way, the airline you book with is responsible for getting you to your final destination.
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Jun 19th, 2016, 06:00 AM
  #9
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Thanks for the shared info. I do book connecting flights through one booking. And have learned to try to have connecting flights at airports with more than one daily flight out to destination, if possible. Survived the 6 1/2 hour delay fine but if it had been a 22 hour delay, I would have missed tour leaving Dublin & would have been hassle to arrange transportation to catch up. I noticed sign in Dublin airport about clients being able to claim compensation if flights delayed a certain amount of time but no such thing in Atlanta. Also I had packed food and water (food places closed in airport late at night)although airline did also set up water & sugar snack station.
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Jun 19th, 2016, 09:22 AM
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I haven't had any major delays in takeoff for international flights in many years.

You think it is a trend because you had two delays in 3 years?

I can tell you what happens if they can't fix plane -- you are stuck there overnight. It happened to me at CDG by AA. Plane was malfunctioning, for some reason they had no other planes available until the next day, which astounded me, I would have thought there were some in all of Europe. I guess they don't have extras and don't fly planes from the US to CDG if they need one, it would cost a lot--because they could have flown a plane from NY to CDG in less time than we had to wait, which was about 24 hours. But somehow they had to come up with an extra plane because they did not fix the one we were on.

AA paid for our rooms in the nearby Hilton CDG, which actually was a really nice hotel, and they paid for our meals, also. The thing that was really irritating is that after we got on the special shuttle bus they provided the next morning to go back to CDG, and got on the new flight about 9 am--we waited a bit and waited, started to take off then stopped and the pilot came on the loudspeaker and told us this was THE SAME PLANE we had yesterday that was broken, and he refused to fly it as it wasn't fixed, and we all had to get off again. They did finally then fly in a plane from London or somewhere and we finally took off maybe around noon.
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Jun 19th, 2016, 09:38 AM
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Plane was malfunctioning, for some reason they had no other planes available until the next day, which astounded me, I would have thought there were some in all of Europe.

I'm astounded by people who think like this, that spare planes are just available at a drop of a hat.

Of course airlines would fly a different plane from NY to CDG if they had to. Airlines send out replacement aircraft over great distances as and when required.

I've had loads of delays over the years.
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