When Do Flights Get Canceled Due To Weather?

Airplanes can face and fight any weather condition. But inclement weather that compromises visibility, such as heavy rain and fog, can be a risk while taking off. 

Heavy winds and ice play with liftoff calculations too. 

All these conditions could lead to a flight delay or cancelation.

Flight cancellations are one of the most common events in the life of someone who frequents air travel. The major cause of flight delays and cancellations is primarily due to weather conditions. 

So, when do airlines end voyages because of the weather? What are those conditions that get flights called off altogether?

What can I expect after a cancellation?

In this article, we will be looking at the four major weather faults that can cause airlines to scrap your trip and what will usually happen after called-off departures. 

4 Weather Conditions That Can Affect an Aircraft

1. Heavy Rain 

Although rainfall is a phenomenon that takes place close to the earth and doesn’t matter much when the aircraft is in the sky, it can disrupt take-off and landing. Thus, precipitation can cause cancellations. 

The problem with heavy rain is that it considerably limits the pilot’s visibility, which severely impairs the liftoff and touchdown of the plane.  

Besides, when there’s heavy rain, it’s never alone. It brings along gales and lightning too, which can also significantly affect planes and their equipment. 

Such unpredictable atmospheric conditions make it dangerous to liftoff. And ambiguous weather can interfere with navigation anytime. 

Another possibility with heavy rain is that temperatures can get quite low at high altitudes. Even snow can deposit on the aircraft’s wings, which affects lift.

And, unless the pilots can get that lift back at the right time, any kind of accident may happen. Or, even if there is no accident, passengers can become afraid, which makes the airline look bad and can result in demands for compensation. 

Therefore, airlines often announce delays on these flights to protect your safety and their reputation. 

Read Also >> Can Airplanes Fly in the Rain?

2. Heavy Winds

Gales may visit the day of your trip, often along with precipitation, potentially causing delays and cancellations. 

However, gales do not usually interfere with the plane itself. Plus, pilots have to go through tests to prove they can handle gales in a storm. 

Thus, overall, the only time wind speeds will cause delays is during liftoff and touchdown. 

Horizontal gales called crosswinds, for example, are the most common issue when taking off and touching down. At wind speeds greater than around 34 to 40 miles per hour, the air traffic controllers delay the liftoff of the aircraft, which can eventually lead to a cancellation.  

The reason for these delays and safety regulations is that gales cause turbulence and may affect the aerodynamic navigation process of the aircraft. These winds can also cause a held-up touchdown, meaning the pilot maintains a holding pattern until they can safely make it to the ground.  

And, as stated above, these problems may cause passengers to worry for their lives, leading to compensation claims and lost business for the travel company. 

3. Freezing Temperatures in the Atmosphere

Ice or snow can sometimes interfere with the flight and disrupt runways. So, if you’re used to air travel, you might have noticed that it is the cold that creates the most delays and cancellations. 

When the navigation staff suspects temperatures to be low enough to form ice, they do not allow flights to leave. They detain them because the plane’s exterior holds moisture which can freeze. 

And even a thin layer of frost on the lift-producing parts of the plane, such as the wings, alters the aerodynamics enough to compromise the plane’s lift. Plus, this rough, rugged layer of ice hinders the smooth air propelling above the wings.

Besides, ice can also form in the machination of planes, which can result in any expected or unexpected form of accident. 

Also, with ice and moisture on the runways, liftoff from the airport becomes quite difficult. And these conditions are not just detrimental for liftoff, but they also predict worse conditions high above the ground. 

Read Also >> Can Airplanes Fly in Snow?

4. Fog

Fog can be the most important determinant of the visibility on the runway when flights takeoff. However, the minimum discernability required for taking off and landing the aircraft varies with every airline’s runway.

And, of course, fog only forms at heights close to the ground, not above 12 miles from sea level. So, fog is not much of a problem for a flying airplane because it doesn’t fill the upper atmosphere. 

But when there is fog, delayed flights can occur because it affects take-off. Thus, you may have to wait for a period after your scheduled departure time if the forecast calls for fog. 

Will Passengers Get Compensation for Flight Cancellation?

Regulation 261 of 2004 protects the rights of airline passengers and entitles them to compensation in case of certain inconveniences. However, these rights don’t always cover compensation for scrapped voyages. 

The compensation airlines have to pay a passenger under certain circumstances depends on the distance of the intended journey and the number of hours it got called off before liftoff. But, a compensation claim from a passenger will become invalid if the airline has mentioned unpredictable weather conditions and warned them beforehand.

Additionally, the U.S Department of Transportation does not make the airlines fund a passenger for any hotel stays, lodgings, and food expenditures in the case of a flight delay or flight cancellation. 

Airlines, however, will usually book you on another ticket or give you travel points if you end up on a canceled flight. Therefore, you typically do get some sort of compensation for cancellation. 

But unpredictable atmospheric conditions are classed as ‘extraordinary circumstances,’ and the reimbursement or compensation process in such cases is quite tricky. 


With every single flight, airlines have quite an amount of money or investment in it, and hundreds of valued customers. So, taking off and deplaning on time is a big deal for airlines. 

But when there is bad weather, like heavy rain, they have no option but to delay or cancel the flight. The airline, however, is bound to book you another flight or refund your ticket, so you do get some compensation.