Jeff Fleischman’s flight wasn’t going anywhere.
Fleischman, a New Jersey tech executive, was supposed to be en route to Miami for a team dinner on Dec. 8. The airplane’s broken fuel pump scuttled those plans. Five hours later, passengers were allowed to board. But the plane then had another mechanical problem.
“The pilot said this plane didn't want to leave the ground,” Fleischman said. Several hours and a standby flight later, he made it to Miami, but not before missing his team dinner.
This was his second flight issue in as many months, as inclement weather had previously grounded another trip from Newark in November.
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“These things happen. They're very frustrating and aggravating,” he said.
An estimated 47.5 million passengers will fly in the U.S. between Dec. 19 and Jan. 5, 2020, according to a holiday travel forecast from the trade group Airlines for America. While the vast majority will reach their destinations on time, flights from certain airports, including major hubs, and those operated by certain airlines are more likely to face late arrivals in December.
Since 2012, about 80 percent of arrivals are either on time or within 15 minutes of their scheduled time every year, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In December since 2012, about 76 percent of arrivals make it on time. And performance lags even more at certain hubs and certain airlines in the challenging month.
If your plane doesn’t land on time, it’s highly likely that the weather was to blame. “Weather is the most common cause of delays year round,” a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration wrote to NBC News via email, accounting for close to 7 out of 10 delays between 2008 and 2013.
It isn’t just winter storms like the kind that snarled flights across the country for Thanksgiving: In winter, pilots are more prone to run into strong winds and low-visibility issues. Other than weather, air travel can be delayed by equipment failure, runway congestion and passenger volume.