flightdelaysHave you ever been at the airport gate, ready to fly to your destination, only to be faced with a somewhat unexplained flight delay?  Sometimes, depending on the weather in your destination, the delay may be an air traffic control (ATC) delay.  ATC delays are when the air traffic controllers order that your flight remain grounded until a specific time, generally to relieve congestion in the air space around your destination airport.  They are often caused when weather at your destination has reduced visibility.  Rather than divert your plane in air (or have you circle around the airport), it’s best to keep you grounded before you take off.

Dealing with an ATC delay?  Here are a few things to keep in mind so that you have the best chance at staying calm and getting on your way as quickly as possible:

Air Traffic Control delays can be pulled at any time.  Stay near your gate in case your flight takes off earlier than the delay may indicate.  If you take off to eat a meal, make sure you check in frequently.  It does happen – I’ve experienced an ATC delay that was pulled, and I nearly missed my flight while leisurely eating frozen yogurt. 

Air Traffic Control delays can also be increased, or your flight could be canceled if conditions worsen. Don’t take the new time as the final word, because it’s entirely possible that things will change. 


Your airline (and the ground crew) has no control over the ATC delay.  You may be frustrated, but getting mad at them won’t help the situation.  They probably won’t have an updated information for you either, until they hear from ATC.  I always feel bad for the ground crew during an ATC delay, because most passengers are not very nice to them.

What do you do during flight delays?

Photo credit: Jeff Sandquist on Flickr