Flights: Airport worker reveals cause of flight delays airlines might not tell you about

Flight delays can be a headache for holidaymakers and business travellers alike. Though often the result of a mechanical error or an unexpected weather front, there seems to be one other major factor that can cause delays for whole flights full of people.


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An anonymous ticketing agent shared the insight on a Reddit forum dedicated to airline secrets.

They pointed out that although airlines might not always explicitly say it, sometimes fellow passengers can be the reason behind why a flight didn’t take off on time.

The worker explained: “One thing people definitely should know is that a surprising amount of the delays that happen are due to passengers. Yep, passengers.”

Passenger delays can range from people packing banned items in their luggage to the on-loading of pushchairs and car seats for smaller travellers.

They also added that sometimes airlines cover up these passenger-related delays.

“That last delay you had that the agent told you was due to maintenance? [That] was thanks to some guy trying to hijack the smoke alarm in the plane,” the worker wrote.

“There are lots of delays for other reasons but you’d be amazed at how many are caused by the people around you while you’re trying to board the plane,” they continued.

“This is also part of why gate agents are so strict about cutting offloading times.”

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Another big cause of delay is the weather, even if it is a clear and sunny day at the departure airport.

“Weather [is a big one],” said the ticketing agent.

“And don’t even say that there’s no weather where you are.

“There isn’t, but that doesn’t mean there’s not weather somewhere else!”


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In fact, weather across the globe is the main reason for flight delays according to Air Traffic Controller Paul Diestelkamp.

“The Air Traffic System is so complex, so many different people have to work together and so many things have to align for every single flight to be able to fly when it is scheduled to fly,” Mr Diestelkamp told

“Equally, therefore, every flight is influenced by so many different things that could mean it gets delayed.

“Sometimes flights avoid bad weather and thunderstorms which means they may fly a bit longer than planned or fog means we can’t see the planes and the pilots can’t see either and have to fly only by their instruments.

“This slows things down and means only less flights can land or take off which may cause a delay.

“If something goes wrong or gets delayed with the boarding or loading of the aircraft, then the flight simply isn’t ready to depart on time and there is nothing we can do as Air Traffic Controllers to help this.”

The fact that airlines are often at the peril of outside variables is why the ticketing agent urges passengers to be patient if an unexpected delay does arise.

”Airline employees love to help when they can, but there are times when we kind of wish we could turn to the nearest wall and whack our heads against it a few times just to improve the situation.”

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