when do airlines cancel flights due to hurricane

When do airlines cancel flights due to hurricane?

Hurricanes are a major problem for airlines since they force them to cancel or divert thousands of flights until the storm passes.

While it is true that today’s planes can fly over and even through hurricanes, most airlines choose to ground their fleets to avoid any problems.

But, exactly when do airlines cancel flights due to hurricane winds and rain?

Airlines may cancel flights when a hurricane is forecasted, it is expected to be intense, or the plane is going to land in a hurricane-affected area. 

Flying Into the Eye of the Storm

Aircraft play a pivotal role when it comes to reducing the damage that hurricanes can cause. But, do planes fly over hurricanes? They can!

Many government agencies collect data from low altitudes using aircraft like the Lockheed WP-3D Orion (Hurricane Hunter).

flying into the eye of the storm

These planes typically head straight into the center of the storm.

The data they collect complement satellite data available on the ground, allowing for more precise hurricane forecasting.

However, forecasting benefits from more than just specialist planes and ground equipment.

Commercial airlines routinely collect meteorological data at several points throughout their journeys.

This data can be invaluable in determining the storm’s intensity, route, and magnitude. 

An Important Consideration

Having access to this vital resource exacerbated the pandemic’s effects on governments, passengers, and airlines. 

We lost a lot of useful information about the weather in 2020 and 2021 since most or at least a substantial part of the airline fleets sat idle.

Fact: Weather centers in the United States and Europe experienced a decrease in weather flight data of 80 to 90 percent during the pandemic. 

Should Airlines Alter Strategies Due to Hurricanes?

should airlines alter strategies due to hurricanes

Planes can theoretically fly over hurricanes if they are not huge.

The thing is that most tropical systems are not as towering as other types of storms. The highest points of a tropical cyclone are located around the center.

Since planes can fly through a hurricane’s eye, people may assume that airlines can continue to operate above one.

Although it is possible, this is not a routine procedure because of the inherent danger involved. 

An Important Consideration

If something goes wrong during a flight while a hurricane is nearby, the consequences could be catastrophic.

In the event of a technical malfunction or a medical emergency, the crew would not have as many options as they would otherwise.

The hurricane’s route may make it difficult for the pilots to find safe alternatives. 

When Do Airlines Cancel Flights Due to Hurricanes?

hurricane-related flight cancellations

When hurricane season rolls around, aviation travel can be difficult to predict and even stressful.

Because of the violent nature of hurricanes, they can significantly alter flight plans by causing delays, reroutes, and cancellations.

You can better prepare for any potential difficulties by knowing when and why airlines cancel flights due to disasters.

Here is a bit more about situations when flights may get canceled:

When a Hurricane is Forecasted

when a hurricane is forecasted

As soon as it becomes likely that a storm will make landfall in a given area, airlines will normally begin canceling flights to and from that region.

Airlines begin evaluating the possible impact on flight schedules as meteorologists determine a hurricane’s likely route.

Before a hurricane reaches landfall, airlines may begin canceling flights if they believe it will be unsafe to do so. 

Proximity to the Hurricane

A major factor in whether or not a hurricane may cause flight cancellations is how close the airport is to the storm’s predicted path.

Extreme weather, such as powerful gusts, torrential rain, and possible flooding, makes aviation operations risky if an airport is located in the hurricane’s direct path.

Therefore, not only would airlines stop flights to avoid the risks associated with takeoff and landing, but they would also cancel flights to safeguard aircraft already in the air

Hurricane Intensity

The likelihood of flight cancellations is highly dependent on the intensity of the hurricane.

Hurricanes and tropical storms of any strength can cause cancellations due to the risk of floods and severe rain.

hurricane intensity

However, hurricanes of categories 4 and 5, with sustained winds exceeding 130 miles per hour, will cause widespread cancellations.

When considering whether or not to suspend flights due to a hurricane, the airport’s infrastructure and amenities play a major role. 

An Important Consideration

To ensure the safety of their aircraft, airlines may postpone flights ahead of time if the airport is unprepared to shelter planes or deal with probable flooding.

The airport could still be in danger even if the hurricane’s course avoids it directly because of secondary impacts.

Fact: Considerations such as the availability of secure hangar space and reliable drainage systems at an airport play a role in this choice. 

Regulations for Air Traffic Controllers

regulations for air traffic controllers

Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel are crucial to keeping the skies safe for passengers.

They constantly check the weather forecast and change flight plans as needed to keep planes from flying into dangerous conditions.

The ATC will issue advisories to airlines if they assess that takeoffs and landings are risky because of the hurricane’s winds, rain, or visibility conditions.

To guarantee the safety of its customers, airlines may cancel flights in response to these recommendations.

Cancellations due to hurricanes can have far-reaching consequences, affecting not just flights in the area where the storm made landfall.

But, it also applies to those in other regions served by the same airline.

This preventative method reduces potential dangers and exemplifies the cooperation between airlines and ATC in placing passenger safety first. 

Crew and Ground Staff Availability

crew and ground staff availability

Hurricanes do not simply affect flights, but also the people who make them possible.

Flight cancellations may occur if crew members and ground staff are unable to reach the airport because of the storm. 

In Case of Evacuation

When authorities in a hurricane-prone area issue an evacuation order, airlines will not operate flights to the area.

Higher demand for flights out of the area before the hurricane hits is another possible consequence of such requests.

Flight cancellations and delays are possible even after a hurricane has passed due to damage to airport facilities, flooded runways, and the need to remove debris. 

What Happens When an Airline Cancels Flights Due to Hurricane?

implications of airline flight cancellations in hurricanes

In the event of a hurricane forecast, it is critical for travelers to keep a watchful eye on the situation.

Typically, airlines will update passengers via their websites, social media pages, and other means of direct communication.

It is also smart to be familiar with your airline’s cancellation policy in case of bad weather.

It is not uncommon for airlines to issue refunds or lenient rebooking policies under these conditions.

There are a few possible consequences if an airline cancels your flight due to a hurricane or other severe weather event.

Here is what you should know:

Getting Notified about Change of Plans

getting notified about change of plans

You will initially receive a cancellation notice.

Depending on your communication settings with the airline, this will occur via email, text message, or the airline’s app.

Most airlines will instantly rebook you on the next available flight at no extra cost.

When the new flight takes off is dependent on things like the weather and the schedules of other airlines.

Sometimes, you get to choose your new flight from several options. 

Refund and Vouchers

Suppose you do not want to be rebooked or the airline is unable to find an alternate flight that works for you. 

In that case, you can usually get a full refund, even if the ticket is not refundable under normal circumstances.

refund and vouchers

Keep in mind that this typically only applies to the unused portion of your ticket.

Some airlines offer hotel and meal vouchers in the event that a flight cancellation necessitates an overnight stay before a rescheduled departure.

International trips are more likely to experience this, although the details can vary widely depending on the carrier.

Fact: Some airlines may give you a voucher or credit toward a future flight instead of a cash refund, which is applicable to all flights. 


When do airlines cancel flights due to hurricane? It depends on many factors, including the intensity of the storm, its path, and the speed of the wind.

The airline’s customer care department should always be your first point of contact during this procedure.

You can ask them anything and get guidance on what to do next.

It is possible to get updates and make changes to your reservation on several airlines’ websites and applications.