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At what temperature do flights get cancelled?

Explorer C

I have an upcoming flight out of Chicago Midway and recently saw a news article that several flights were canceled recently due to cold and wind chill and inability to de-ice.  Temperature predictions for the time of our departure is -4F.  At what temperature do the generally cancel flights?


If delayed or cancelled, we will miss connecting flight to our destination.I'm thinking it might be better to catch a day earlier flight to the airport where we connect, and spend the night there.  


Re: At what temperature do flights get cancelled?

Aviator B

"Only low temperatures will not normally affect flights, planes fly in much colder temperatures at 30-35,000 ft.. Ice and snow are much more likely to cancel flights than just cold temperatures."


"If your flight is cancelled, Southwest offers two options: get you on the next flight with available space or refund the unused part of the fare. The carrier notes that its flight schedules are subject to change without notice, and the times shown on schedules, tickets, and advertising are not guaranteed."


I would keep checking the Southwest Airlines home page for Travel Alerts.  If your cities are listed you would be able to change your flights for free. 

Re: At what temperature do flights get cancelled?

Aviator A

Just some guessing here, but there are other machines and systems involved in the operation of a flight that might not function in the cold temperatures. So while the plane is ok, the vehicles used to do the de-icing or tugs used to move luggage and push planes might not be able to function properly. There's also a human safety element that needs to be considered, there's probably a certain temperature that airlines (and unions) don't want employees working in, at least not for prolonged periods of time. 

Re: At what temperature do flights get cancelled?

Aviator A

I think it is more of a battle of attrition than any absolute temperature that would automatically cancel flights. Maybe there is some absolute limit but that may be -20F or colder.


But as you mention, people will need to take more breaks to warm up, gradually as temperatures get colder the de-icing and ground crews will end up bottlenecking the flights so some will end up being canceled premptively in order to manage the overall system.


One article popped up with a search:


If you consider Minneapolis as an example, it gets colder there than Chicago and all the airside equipment still works into the extreme temperatures.


Moisture however is another story, ice and snow will have a larger effect than the temperature alone, especially at Midway since the runways are a little shorter than other airports. Chicago Department of Aviation has to be able to keep the runways clear as there isn't as much extra allowance for braking distance, and visibility is needed for the approach for landing.


Home airport MDW, frequent visitor to MCO to see the mouse.