MIAMI – According to Eurocontrol data snapshot, A rare primary cause of flight delays, code “86” covering immigration, customs, and health, which in normal years stands at approximately 1% of total delays, has now grown and COVID-19 is the reason why.

Less traffic, fewer delays. Because of the sharp decrease in operations, delays have naturally decreased but not entirely disappeared since airport activities going from baggage handling to engineering or refueling can still cause delays. For July 2021, airlines supplied data have shown an average delay of 11 minutes against 18 minutes reported for, the same month of 2019.

Image: IATA Media

Dealys Due to Covid Checks on the Rise

But not all the causes of delayed departures are down. To determine and track the reasons behind delays and bring about improvements, airlines classify delays between “primary” and “reactionary”. The origin of the majority of primary causes lies within the carrier’s operations and are linked, as an example, to technical checks or refueling.

Also included in the “primary” reasons are delays linked to specific airport operational situations, such as ramp congestion, or air traffic management issues but also to immigration, customs, and health with passport controls as an example. The “reactionary” delays are those linked to a delay in arrival that has not been completely recovered.

In a normal traffic year, delays directly caused by immigration, customs, and health checks are minimal with an incidence of 1% on total delays. Because of Covid-19 related additional departures controls, delays coded “86” have sored from a negligible amount of time to 0.6 to 0.8 minutes per flight.

The amount of time might seem unimportant but when applied to the total of flights operated it amounts to 10 to 20% of “primary” delays with a considerable quantitative jump when compared to the 1% recorded in what could be termed a normal typical year.

The Eurocontrol snapshot tracks down the reasons at the extra time needed to check health certification according to the destination of the traveler. Early arrival at the airport, now systematically requested by airlines and airports, is not sufficient to make up for long queues at check-in, a problem getting worst during the high travel seasons.

Owing to the increase in traffic during the month of August, Eurocontrol expects a situation worst than the one observed in July with a better trend in the following months with holiday travel going to a seasonal low.

Some technical explanations: delays are measured from the gate departure compared to the schedule. Reactionary delay, code 93, might have many primary reasons behind it but these are not taken into account and the delay is not distributed among them. delay codes are established by IATA-International Air Transport Association.

Featured image: London-Heathrow Airport Concourse – Photo: London-Heathrow Media