If your flight time has just been changed, you’re probably wondering what the reason was.

Airlines usually don’t just volunteer information on why your flight time was changed, but there are five main reasons why airlines change flight times, including crew scheduling changes, aircraft issues, a decrease or increase in demand, changing weather conditions, and airport layout shifts.

Airlines move flight times both forwards and backwards, depending on what changes need to made to best optimize their schedule.

6 Reasons Why Airlines Change Flight Times

Aircraft Issues

When an aircraft is suspected to have a fault, it may be grounded.

This was the case with the Boeing 737 Max after 346 people died in two crashes, Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019.

Due to evidence of the accidents having similarities, the FAA decided to ground all Boeing 737 MAX planes, though this was already after 51 other regulators has already done so.

This can also happen when a plane needs to undergo unexpected maintenance, so a different plane will have to be used for the flight while the one undergoing maintenance will remain out of service.

Crew Scheduling Changes

When there is a concern that there will not be enough flight attendants or pilots available, airlines may change schedules to account for this.

Low Demand

Airlines release schedules sometimes up to a year in advance, but if there is low demand for a certain route, airlines may tweak their schedules to account for the lower demand.

This is usually by switching to a smaller plane, as the plane would not be at full capacity and wasted on that route.

High Demand

Conversely, if demand for a particular route is higher, an airline may have to switch to a larger plane to meet the increase in demand.

Weather Conditions

Bad weather, like thunderstorms and heavy rain, can often delay a flight, though this is usually at short notice due to the difficulties in accurately predicting the weather in advance.

Airport Construction/Maintenance

If you booked your flight months in advance, but an airport suddenly undergoes construction, perhaps in the form of construction or maintenance, your flight time might be affected.

An example, is if an airport decides to repave a runway.

This means that the runway can no longer be used, so there would be a change in flight times to account for the increased traffic of planes landing and taking off.

How Often Do Airlines Change Flight Times?

It’s hard to say just how often airlines change flight times, as it usually depends on external factors, like strikes, demand levels, and aircraft issues.

However, it’s not unusual for airlines to change the flight time more than 60 days before a flight to optimize schedules.

Flight times changed inside 60 days are usually due to external factors, as flight crews have already been assigned their schedules, so changing schedules at that point would be more difficult.

You Will Be Told If Your Flight Time Has Changed

Airlines will always let you know, usually by email, that your flight time has been changed, so there is no need for you to worry that you might miss your flight or arrive at the airport way too early.

This can happen even if there has been a five-minute adjustment to your flight.

If your flight time has been changed, you will be informed, and then you can decide what the best course of action is, whether that be doing nothing, trying to get a refund, or finding a different flight.

You Don’t Have to Accept Flight Changes

You do not have to accept flight changes, but the extent of the change will affect your best course of action.

If your flight has changed by an insignificant amount, such as 5-15 minutes, the best course is usually to do nothing.

If your flight time has been changed by a significant amount, and it affects your plans, you may be entitled to a refund.

Considering that each airline defines a significant schedule change differently, you may or not be able to get a refund.

You may also be offered a chance to rebook your flight, which might actually work out better for you.

You May Be Entitled to a Refund

Whether you can obtain a refund or not if an airline changes your flight time depends on the extent of the change, as well as the airline.

Airlines define a significant schedule change differently from each other, but if it’s at least 1-2 hours, you may be entitled to a full refund, especially if it means that you will miss your connecting flight.

You may also be offered the chance to rebook your flight.

Airlines Can Also Change Flight Numbers

Airlines can change flight numbers due to mergers/acquisitions that cause codeshare conflicts – i.e. an airline that uses a specific flight number must change the number if the other airline they just merged with/acquired also uses the same flight number.

For flights that operate at the same time in the same area, flight numbers must also be changed to avoid miscommunications between ATC and the aircraft.

See Also: Your Flight Disruption Survival Guide

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).