How Much Snow Does It Take to Cancel a Flight?

You’ve probably heard that bad weather can affect a scheduled flight. Chances are, you’re one of the many passengers who experienced a delayed flight because of too much snow.

So, how much snow does it take to cancel a flight? Well, canceling a flight isn’t based on how much snow there is, but on how safe the runway is because of all the snow.

Aside from this, there are various factors, such as rain, wind, temperature, and visibility, that can lead to flight delays. We’ll cover all that in this article by giving you an in-depth answer.

When Do Flights Get Canceled Because of Snow?

While aircraft and pilots can fly in snow, airports will postpone flights when there’s an intense blizzard or storm. However, it’s important to note that flights get canceled not because of the snow itself, as airports typically have the equipment to remove that on the runway.

It’s mainly because of the rough landing that a snowstorm can lead to, making it dangerous for any aircraft to use runways. During that time, snow removal will be harder and almost impossible to clear in a short amount of time.

Also, if airline authorities believe that there will be stranded planes at the affected airports, they will cancel flights in advance. For unaffected airports, planes will stay in base until the runways and ramps are cleared.

Snow-Related Conditions That Might Cancel Flights

A variety of factors may cause flight cancellations, such as the wind, temperature, visibility, and frozen aircraft gear. It’s these factors that determine the cancellation of flights rather than the amount of snow on the ground.

Let’s have a look at how these conditions affect our scheduled flights.

Strong Winds During Snow

Strong or high winds can disrupt flights during landing and mid-flight, even when snow isn’t actively falling. No one can predict how violent wind gusts can be, but it’s certain to increase traveling risks.

When flying, harsh winds can cause turbulence, endangering passengers and pilots alike as the plane tries to stay on track. The same difficulty occurs when landing, as unpredictable winds can thrust the aircraft out of the runway direction.

Either way, pilots and attendants are experts in this field and will prioritize passenger safety. However, aircraft turbulence can cause panic and is still not a worthy risk to take.

Decreased Visibility

There’s also the case of a decrease in visibility. Winds can pick up snow that’s on the ground, stirring it up and lowering the pilot’s visibility.

With low visibility, the danger of flying increases as navigation on land and in the air becomes a tough challenge.

In airports, air traffic controllers and aircraft marshallers can direct the pilot for accurate landing. However, this may be a difficult feat for all parties because of the snow that’s hindering visibility, affecting communication from all sides.

In the worst-case scenario, the pilot may accidentally land on the wrong runway or object, believing that they were on the right track. Crashes may occur because of conditions like this.

Frozen Parts of an Airplane

Aside from planes having to wait for the runways to be cleared, there are cases where ice forms on the aircraft itself, making it dangerous to take off.

When ice forms on the aircraft during freezing weather, officials will inevitably cancel flights as they queue planes for de-icing. It’ll take some time to remove ice from an aircraft’s wings, landing gears, or parts that greatly affect flying.

Airlines take caution and care to avoid situations like an aircraft being stuck on the runway, unable to take off or reach a parking stand.

Icy Runways

We’ve mentioned before that having snow on the ground isn’t the reason for flight cancellation, but rather the effects of the snow on runways.

In extreme cases of cold weather, slippery pavement can make it harder for a plane’s landing gear to maintain traction. Remember that ice sleets aren’t a suitable surface for rubber tires.

But, how do airports clear up the ice to maintain traction? They train staff to use the right equipment to remove snow and keep the ice from building up on pavement—given that it’s not a blizzard or a storm, but a regular snowfall.

Can Airplanes Fly During Snow?

The short answer is yes. Pilots are trained to be aviation experts, and aircraft are designed to fly at high altitudes in cold temperatures.

However, depending on how hard the snow affects flight activities, cancellation of flights can still occur. With the coming and going of storms, it’s difficult to ascertain how bad the weather will be, as weather forecasts can be inaccurate sometimes.

Then again, full cancellations because of bad weather aren’t common—delays are more likely to happen as a result. So, it’s wise to still come to your scheduled flight on time because you might board a follow-up flight on the same day.

What Should I Do If It’s Snowing Outside, But I Have a Scheduled Flight?

Before leaving your house, try calling your airline for news on whether your flight is delayed or canceled. Depending on where you booked your flight, some airlines may let you board an earlier flight with no extra charge.

If your airline company cancels your flight, we recommend keeping in contact with the airline or checking the website for a change in flight status. Remember that there’ll be many passengers in a similar situation rebooking an earlier flight.

So, keep your phone on standby and their website open!


Airlines can let airplanes fly in the snow. However, when a flight gets canceled, it’s not a question of how much snow it takes to cancel a flight, but how snow affects the ground and flight operation.

In fact, other factors that accompany the falling snow are the ones to blame for canceled or delayed flights. These include low visibility, risky turbulence from high winds, queues for de-icing, and lack of availability of runways.

Regardless, delays are more common than the cancellation of flights, so it’s best to still show up in time for a follow-up flight.

This is an updated article. Originally posted on December 14, 2022 @ 1:33 pm