Various weather conditions can cause flight delays and cancellations, but very few weather conditions can present a threat to a plane or the passengers on board.
So why do the numbers of flight delays and cancellations spike as soon as a snowflake lands on the tarmac at an airport?
The main safety concern with regards to flying is the taking off and landing part of the flight.
Due to this, airlines and airports are reluctant to see planes in the sky during periods of bad weather because the main challenge is either to get the planes up or to land them safely.
Once in the sky, planes are unlikely to ever be affected by the weather. Modern aircraft are designed to take the rough with the smooth, as they say.
Visibility is the deciding factor when flying. Depending on how much the pilot can see, this will effect which the mode in which the pilot will operate the aircraft.
Depending on the visibility, a pilot has two options for flying a plane. Visual Flying, which means that the pilot takes over from controllers to fly. The pilot must be able to see what is in front of them to be able to do this. The second option is instrument flying. It is used on days when there is low visibility; the plane effectively flies itself.
The downside to instrument flying is that there has to be a reduced number of planes in the sky for it to be deemed safe. This, of course, would have a knock-on effect on the number of flight delays and cancellations. The main thing is that passengers safety is paramount, we can live with being late, so long as we are alive.
It is common for the number of planes in the sky to have been reduced by half when instrument flying. That is when departure and arrival boards begin to flood flight status with delays and cancellations.
If this has got you worrying about the next time you catch a flight, rest assured commercial airlines are prepared to deal with most weather conditions. And remember: it is likely to be the danger of taking off or landing that has caused your flight delay or cancellation, not the weather.
So, to wrap up, flight delays and cancellations do make it safer for passengers, just not in a way you might think.