Updated on May 16, 2024.
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Every aircraft gets hit by lightning once or twice a year, every one thousand hours or so. That’s why thunderstorms are a significant problem for airlines while also potentially threatening.

During a storm, an airplane has to diverge from its typical path impacting Air Traffic Controllers as they can only accept a limited number of airplanes to land or take off. So, it is always safer to keep the plane on the ground in such situations.

Let’s talk about the impact thunderstorms and lightning has on the flights, airlines, passengers, and the airline staff working there. This article was updated in 2024.

Key Takeaways

  • Thunderstorms can impact air travel by causing flights to be delayed or cancelled, with safety concerns being the top priority for airlines.
  • If a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather conditions, passengers may not be eligible for compensation under Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, as this is considered an extraordinary circumstance.
  • Passengers should be aware that thunderstorms at their destination or along their flight route can also impact their travel plans, even if the weather at their departure airport is clear.
  • Airlines may redirect flights to avoid turbulence and lightning strikes during thunderstorms, which can also cause delays or cancellations.
  • While it may be frustrating for passengers to experience travel disruptions due to weather, it’s important to understand that the airlines are prioritizing safety and taking necessary precautions to protect passengers and crew.

How Do Thunderstorms Affect Flights?

do thunderstorms delay flights?

If your plane is en route during a storm, it may change its direction to prevent significant turbulence and the enormous impacts of lightning strikes. However, if the plane is still at the airport during a storm, the flight might get delayed.

Sometimes your flight is delayed or cancelled, but the weather around your location is perfect. That’s because there might be severe weather conditions along your plane’s route or at its destination.

According to a meteorologist at Virgin Australia, when thunderstorms produce lightning strikes within 8 kilometers of an airport, the operations at the ramp are usually shut down.

Moreover, suppose your flight gets delayed due to thunderstorms. In that case, you are not entitled to a refund or any compensation as this situation will be considered “extraordinary” as per Article 5 III of Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004.

Delays and cancellations can be frustrating, but behind the scenes, the airlines are just taking precautions to ensure your safety.


Flights can be delayed or cancelled due to thunderstorms. Sometimes, you may be notified by the airlines that your flight has been cancelled or delayed due to severe weather conditions, but the weather at your location is perfect because there might be storms en route or at your destination. The airline will not compensate you for any delay or cancellation due to the weather.

While a plane getting hit by lightning might seem scary, it’s usually safe as the exterior of the airplane is made from aluminum which is a good conductor of electricity.

While you are not eligible for compensation for flight delays caused by extraordinary circumstances, you can get compensation for flight delays that are caused by the airline’s fault. In such cases you can contact these flight delay compensation companies to get help in getting your rightful compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do thunderstorms cause flight delays?

Thunderstorms can cause turbulence and lightning strikes, which can be dangerous for aircraft. As a result, airlines may delay or cancel flights to ensure the safety of passengers and crew.

  • Can I get compensation if my flight is delayed due to thunderstorms?

No, if your flight is delayed or cancelled due to thunderstorms or other severe weather conditions, it is considered an extraordinary circumstance, and you are not entitled to compensation under Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004.

  • What happens if my flight is delayed or cancelled due to thunderstorms?

If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to thunderstorms, the airline will usually rebook you on a later flight or offer a refund. However, checking with your airline for their specific policies and procedures is important.

  • Can thunderstorms at the destination or along the route impact my flight?

Yes, thunderstorms at the destination or along the route can also impact flights, even if the weather at the departure airport is clear. Airlines may redirect flights or delay them until it is safe to proceed.

  • Is it safe for planes to fly through thunderstorms?

While it is generally safe for planes to fly through thunderstorms, airlines may avoid them to minimize turbulence and lightning strikes. The exterior of airplanes is made from aluminum, which is a good conductor of electricity, so lightning strikes usually do not cause damage.


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