How to book a flight that (likely) won’t get canceled

(NerdWallet) – Flight delays and cancellations are uncomfortably frequent right now. In fact, the on-time arrivals rate thus far in 2022 among U.S. airports hasn’t been this low since 2014, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

For the period between January and April 2022, just 76% of nonstop, domestic flights arrived on time, according to the BTS. Meanwhile, about 20% of flights were delayed (also a high not seen since 2014) and 4% were canceled completely. For context, 87% of flights arrived on time during the same period last year, and less than 2% of flights were canceled.

So how do you improve your odds of traveling on one of the three-quarters of flights that arrives in good time? And how have flight delays and cancelations become so prevalent?

Why are so many flights being canceled?

There are several reasons flights are being canceled, and there’s currently a lot of finger-pointing, too.

Contributing factors include:

  • Airline issues, like not having enough staff. Mechanical issues and delays may be compounded by staffing shortages.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration is also experiencing staffing issues. While a shortage isn’t to blame, the agency is still managing backups in training new air traffic controllers quickly enough. National Aviation System delays, such as heavy traffic volume or air traffic control challenges, account for about 5% of delays.
  • Weather. This issue is minor; weather delays have accounted for less than 1% of late arrivals so far this year.
  • Increased travel demand. If one aircraft previously flew two flights a day with a six-hour buffer between flights, the second flight wouldn’t be impacted, even if the first flight was delayed three hours. Now, if that same aircraft has increased its flight numbers to three a day with less downtime, even a short delay can severely
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