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Air Traffic Control Delays

Flights to Sri Lanka

With fewer air traffic control staff supporting greater air traffic volumes, delays are more common than in years past.

Travelers in the United States and Caribbean islands who’ve flown around the holidays are familiar with departure delays. They show up to their aircraft for an on-time departure with fuel already loaded, catering complete, and an aircraft door ready to be closed, only to sit in the same spot for 30 minutes or more.

“What seems to be the problem?” they think. “Why aren’t we taxiing out to the runway? I don’t see any other aircraft nearby jockeying for position, so let’s start the engines and get this show on the road!”

This is the unfortunate reality of air traffic control delays. It’s difficult to see the big picture when you’re only looking out the window at the same slab of tarmac you’ve been staring at for the last half hour.

Everything can run like clockwork up until the moment the door closes. Suddenly, your flight crew gets an alert from local air traffic control that they won’t be able to start engines for another 20 minutes due to a delay in the system.

Here is what to know about these delays before you fly:

What Are Air Traffic Control Delays?

Air traffic control delays happen when the airspace you will fly through to reach your destination is too crowded with other aircraft. Your flight crew sometimes will not know they are coming until they call for a route clearance.

Delays can also happen when high volumes of departure and arrival traffic coincide. For the National Airspace System to operate safely, only so many aircraft can take off or land within a given time interval.

Often, it’s traffic at the destination airport that’s responsible. During the holidays and over spring break, Caribbean islands and the most sought-after travel hotspots in the US experience massive influxes. Limited runway availability in hotspots such as Turks and Caicos, Marathon, Aspen, Grand Cayman, and Telluride can cause backups across the flight grid.

Good communication with your broker will help alleviate the hassle of a postponed departure if your delay is known in advance. If a delay surprises your flight crew and you’re already on board, however, you will be presented with an option to remain comfortably aboard your aircraft or to get up and stretch your legs in the comfort of the executive terminal.

Can Air Traffic Delays Be Avoided?

The short answer to the question of avoiding delays is yes! You can easily avoid them by flying well before or after the holiday rush. That’s not the answer you are looking for, however. We know that peak season may be the only time you have available.

You can try to mitigate your chances of a delay by picking a departure time window that others avoid. The week leading up to Christmas and the New Year and the week after will be the absolute busiest, but certain times of day and night are advantageous. Leisure travelers like to depart in the mid-morning and late afternoon, causing the local time windows between 9­–11 am and 4–7 pm to be the busiest.

Early morning departures are not guaranteed to prevent delays, but your chances of encountering one before 7 am are significantly reduced, so it’s worth considering as an option. Late departures are often the best bet if you want to travel during the peak season(s). Departing after 9 pm gives travelers the greatest chance of avoiding undue delays to and from holiday hotspots in the US and Caribbean.

Air Traffic Control Delays

Some of the best destinations for private jet travel within the US and the Caribbean have limited capacity, and delays help maintain the safety and integrity of our whole system. While delays sometimes can’t be avoided, being aware of them ahead of time is better than being caught unaware.

Federal air traffic control facilities have also recently faced historic staffing shortages amidst strong growth in air travel demand, leading to more delays than in years past. Until the shortage is resolved, certain delays will continue to be a minor inconvenience for our operation.

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