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Climate change is impacting your air travel

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Posted at 11:34 AM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 14:34:40-04

If you’ve been to the airport recently, you may have noticed many flights getting delayed or canceled due to weather. Researchers found that climate change is affecting your flights from taking off or landing on time.

“As we increasingly have to deal with severe weather events, airlines' top concerns remain consumer safety,” said Skyler McKinley, a spokesperson for AAA. “If it is not safe to fly because of a storm or the runway is too hot or other climate concerns that leads to delays and cancellations.”

It’s that time of the year again, summer travel. And with that comes a lot of complications.

“Climate change is going to have a complete change to air travel now, and it comes from multiple pieces,” said Paul Chinowksky, a professor of engineering at the University of Colorado. “You have the extreme heat, and everyone is experiencing that, and we're seeing record heat all over the place."

According to the Department of Transportation, in May 2022, there was a reported on-time arrival rate of 77.2%.

In that same report, there were nearly 12,000 flights that were canceled due to bad weather and staffing shortages, and there were 65 tarmac delays of more than three hours reported.

“The heat and severe weather are one area,” Chinowsky said. “The heat is literally having an impact on the actual asphalt that the plane is on. A plane can’t sit too long at the gate, or it will start to sink on the asphalt.”

Because of climate change, Chinowsky said that airlines are doing what they can to adapt.

“When it starts getting really hot, it creates problems for planes to get lift,” Chinowsky said. “It makes it harder for them to take off. So, they must reduce the amount of weight they have, or in some cases, they can’t fly.”

Chinowsky said there is going to be a shift not only in the way airlines schedule but materials and technology they use to keep operating.

"You're going to see more flights at around 8, 9, 10 o'clock at night after it begins to cool down,” Chinowsky said. “It may not be the most favorite thing for passengers, but it’s something they're going to have to get used to. There are a few things actively getting looked at: one is changing the materials we use on runways and taxiways to make them more heat resistant, and the second is looking at changing our technology for predicting when these types of events are going to happen."

For now, McKinley said travelers need to do what they can to mitigate any disruptions.

"The only silver bullet to avoid delays and cancellations is get on the earliest flight for two factors,” McKinley said. “Severe weather isn't usually as bad in the morning. Also at that time, because flights haven't been shuffled to delays, there are crews to get you to your destination."