when do flights get cancelled due to snow

When do flights get canceled due to snow? Or, you may be asking, “Do flights get canceled for snow?

It turns out that it is possible to notice some delays or cancellations due to snow. But the question is, “How heavy the snow need to be for flight disruptions? Let’s find out now!

Flights get cancelled or delayed when the runway is not clear for landing or the snowstorm is heavy enough to reduce visibility. 

When Do Flights Get Cancelled Due to Snow?

when are flights cancelled due to snow

Snow can cause flight delays or cancellations, even if the weather appears to be fine.

This is because the snowstorm might occur along the flight path or at the destination.

Additionally, strong winds can cause the snow to become more intense, impacting the pilot’s visibility and ability to control the aircraft.

Here are some other factors contributing to flight cancellations due to heavy snow: 

Disrupted Airport Operations

Snowfall can greatly affect airport operations, creating difficulties with:

  • Runway visibility
  • Aircraft movement
  • Overall safety

The challenges will vary depending on the amount of snowfall and how well the airport manages the snow. So, when do flights get canceled due to snow landing?

Here are some other factors resulting in disrupted airport operations: 

Runway Visibility Causing Safety Concerns

runway visibility and safety concerns

When it snows a lot, it can make it very hard to see on:

  • Runways
  • Taxiways
  • Yard areas

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rules about how clear the sky has to be for planes to take off and land – it should not be under three miles.

Here is a bit about those flying rules:

IFR flight responsibilitiesIFR pilots must avoid other aircraft when weather permits because VFR flights may be in the same area without ATC notice.
Controlled departure routes (CDRs)Departing aircraft can quickly reroute via CDRs in bad weather or congestion. The eight-character designator represents departure and arrival airports, letting aircrews fly different routes.
Special VFR ClearancesA special VFR clearance allows VFR flights in restricted airspace with reduced visibility and cloud clearance. Depending on airspace class, control towers, closest towers, FSSs, and centers receive clearance requests.
IFR clearance VFR-on-topA pilot on an IFR flight plan in VFR weather can request VFR-on-top to choose an altitude.
Fact: The MIT International Center for Air Transportation did a study that found that flight delays can increase by up to 39% when it snows. 

Impact on Air Craft Maintenance

air craft maintenance impact

Snow and ice can affect an airplane’s flying surfaces, engines, sensors, and other important parts.

When snow gets into an engine’s air intake or around its sensors, it can cause the engine to break down and the sensors to give inaccurate readings.

Maintenance teams must carefully check and clean planes to ensure no technical problems.

This process takes more time and resources, which can cause flights to be late. 

Critical Snowfall Thresholds

Airports have set important levels of snowfall that cause certain operational actions.

For example, if a certain amount of snow falls, runways may have to be closed briefly for snow removal and de-icing.

The FAA has rules for judging the state of runways based on how much snow, ice, and pollution on them. This rating tells us which kinds of planes can fly safely.

Fact: When more than 25% of the runway surface area is covered by frost, ice, etc., the runway is polluted for condition reporting and plane performance. 

Safety Regulations about When to Cancel or Delay Flights

safety regulations in canceling flights

When faced with severe snowstorms, both aviation authorities and airlines go above and beyond to prioritize your well-being.

They diligently follow strict regulations and protocols to guarantee a secure and comfortable travel experience. 

Safety-First Approach

Regarding aviation, it is of utmost importance to prioritize safety above all else.

Esteemed aviation authorities like the FAA in the United States and the EASA in Europe greatly emphasize adopting a safety-first approach.

There are regulations carefully designed to consider many factors that ensure your safety and comfort during your travels.

These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Weather conditions
  • Aircraft performance
  • Overall visibility

Rest assured that the airport authorities prioritize your well-being and strive to provide a seamless and enjoyable travel experience. 

How the Airports Get to a Decision?

how airports get to a decision

Airlines diligently track weather forecasts and collaborate closely with meteorological experts to evaluate the magnitude of snowstorms.

Similarly, flight crews, dispatchers, and operational teams diligently assess real-time data to make well-informed decisions.

If they determine that weather conditions are unsafe, airlines may cancel or delay flights to prioritize their passengers’ safety. 

Seasonal Patterns and When to Expect Snow-Related Flight Disruptions

Aviation operations are indeed influenced by seasonal patterns, as certain regions and periods of the year witness increased flight disruptions caused by snow-related conditions.

Geographical factors and climate variations dictate the prevalence of disruptions in flight schedules and travel plans.

Let us explore the various regions and timeframes that often encounter difficulties caused by snowfall.

RegionCommon MonthsImpact
North AmericaDec to MarBlizzards and winter storms can cancel and postpone flights, as snow and ice disrupt airport operations.
EuropeNov to FebSnowfall and frigid temperatures affect northern and Eastern European flights, with heavy snow closing major airports.
AsiaNov to FebSnowfall and freezing temperatures in Siberia and Northern China restrict air traffic, with snow halting airport and ground flights.
South AmericaJun to AugHigh-altitude snowfall in the Andes can cancel or delay flights, and airports may close due to snowfall.

Travel Advisory and Precautions

travel precautions and advisory

If you are traveling during months when you may witness heavy snowfall, you must always practice care and keep yourself informed.

Here are some tips to help you navigate these situations better: 

Check Flight Status Early

Before departing for the airport, it is advisable to monitor the current status of your flight consistently.

Airlines offer the convenience of real-time updates through their websites and mobile applications.

Be sure to use them to remain well-informed about any potential delays or cancelations.

Fact: Flight tracking websites can also offer valuable insights into flight paths and estimated arrival times. 

Sign Up for Travel Alerts

signing up for travel alerts

Numerous airlines provide travel alert services that efficiently inform passengers about any modifications to their flights through email, text, or app notifications.

By subscribing to these alerts, you will stay well-informed about any:

  • Gate changes
  • Departure delays
  • Crucial updates in real-time 

Learn about Rebooking Options

Ensure you know all about the airline’s rebooking policies if your flight gets messed up.

They offer options to rebook onto the next flight without any lame change fees if your flight gets canceled or delayed big time because of the weather.

It is also helpful to be familiar with the passenger bill of rights in effect where you live. 

Know about Your Rights

your rights as passengers

Snowstorm-related flight cancellations can be stressful, but knowing your rights and compensation policies might help. 

Compensation and Refunds

Airlines and regions have different compensation rules.

Airlines may offer food coupons or hotel accommodations if the weather delays your journey. However, special situations like heavy snowstorms may limit cancellation compensation.

For further information, check the airline’s terms and conditions. 

EU Regulation 261/2004

This rule protects passengers from flight cancellations and delays, including weather-related ones.

Customers may receive €250 to €600 in compensation according to the flight distance and delay length. 

US Passenger Bill of Rights
passenger bill of rights

It is important to bear in mind that the US has no federal statute requiring compensation for weather-related airline disruptions.

However, airlines must offer flight status information, rebooking choices, and reimbursements promptly. Many airlines willingly offer travel vouchers or rebooking for the next trip.

Fact: Keep all emails, texts, and boarding cards from cancelled flights, as these documents can support a complaint or compensation request.   

Have a Back-Up Plan

having a back-up plan

If you notice inclement weather, prepare yourself for the possibility of a flight cancelation.

Find out about any local airports, hotels, and ground transit alternatives.

Keeping a supple and open mind might help you deal with life’s curveballs.

Fact: Travel insurance helps ease winter travel and may cover trip cancellations, delays, and other issues.   


When do flights get canceled due to snow? Flights can get delayed or canceled based on how intense the snowstorm is.

Ultimately, the airport authority has to call the shots, but they always prioritize passengers’ safety.

Still, it is important to learn about your options if your flight gets cancelled due to snow.