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Flight Delays

February 2013 issue cover 

Airlines are part of an interdependent aviation system which has to work like clockwork to get passengers to their destinations safely and on time. Airlines need to play their part.

But any approach to address delays should involve everyone in the picture – airlines, airports, air traffic management, governments and passengers themselves – so that, together, we can improve on-time performance, and when delays do happen, ensure that passengers are properly cared for.


Regulation that requires airlines alone to pay compensation or provide care and assistance as a result of delays does not address the fundamental problem of why delays occur.

It ignores that market forces at play that will compel airlines to offer solutions in order to keep their customers. And it may cause airlines to cancel flights instead – an even more unpleasant experience for passengers.

Most delays are beyond the control of airlines. They happen because of a variety of reasons – like weather, overtaxed infrastructure and crowded airspace.

​​That’s why we think partnership and planning – amongst airports, airlines, ANSPs and governments - is the best way to take care of passengers when delays happen, and reduce delays themselves. 

Partnering to reduce delays

Here's a few examples of what different actors can do, or are already doing, to get passengers to their destinations on-time:


  • Airlines and airports are investing in new systems to separate arriving aircraft at Heathrow by time instead of distance will radically cutting delays and reducing cancellations due to high headwinds
  • Investing in better communication with customers during delays
  • Closely monitoring and smoothing out operations over the entire network and minimizing turnaround times
  • Boarding procedures to get passengers boarded faster (e.g. self-boarding)

Air Traffic Management Systems:

  • As air traffic grows, so does the need for efficient, globally harmonized and interoperable Air Traffic Management.
  • In Europe for example, a new approach is required to increase the performance and efficiency of the air transport system while decreasing environmental impact and overall cost. IATA, AEA and ERA have collaborated to produce a blueprint for the Single European Sky delivering on safety environment, capacity and cost-effectiveness.


  • IATA works with airports to drive cost-efficiency improvements, with a master plan 
  • Timely investment in capacity before growth becomes gridlock is key



  • Working with all the stakeholders above to take a smarter regulation policy approach to solving the problem of delays, rather than targeting one actor.  

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Reducing delays A3 poster (pdf)

Reducing delays A3 poster - Thanksgiving (pdf)

Reducing delays A3 poster (pdf) (Spanish)

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On Twitter: #SmarterRegulation


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Contact us at: Changethedebate@iata.org


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