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Your plane lands and your pilot announces that you are waiting on a gate to park.

Why exactly are we waiting for a gate when there are 5 of them open? And thats only the ones you can see.

Well…. Lots of planning goes into a plane and which gate it must be at.

A baggage handler is waiting for your plane to land and to transfer your bags to baggage claim or another gate. Another baggage handler is waiting to put bags onto the plane as it continues to its next destination. A fueler is waiting to fuel the plane with the proper fuel for the next flight. The amount of fuel depends on the plane’s load and destination.  A light load on a plane going on an hour flight will require significantly less fuel than one going to Milan with a plane full of people.

A catering vehicle is waiting to cater your plane with either a light snack for that short flight or a meal for the international leg.

The passengers for the next flight are waiting at a gate. Switching the gate for them is a huge inconvenience. Especially for those passengers that have a little extra challenge getting around. This could result in them missing their flight. The gate agent at this gate has opened the next flight on their computer. They have paperwork printed. They have people in place to assist the next passengers that will need extra help getting onto the plane. They have put a lot of work into greeting your plane.

The passengers on your flight that may need extra help getting off the plane will have assistance waiting for them.


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Not all gates can accommodate all planes. Some planes may be too large for certain gates, and some may be too small. At your gate all the equipment and people are in place to take care of your arrival and the next flight’s departure. I know waiting a few minutes for your gate to open up can seem like an eternity. Especially if you are holding a toddler that has to pee. But changing a gate is no simple process and while likely cause a longer delay later.

The airlines typically have to lease their gates from the airport, and gates aren’t cheap. So airlines don’t usually have lots of extra gates sitting that won’t be used at least during their peak times. (This does allow them to pass their savings on to use as the customer.)

So next time you are “waiting for a gate” just remember there is a lot of stuff going on at that gate waiting for YOU. And if you hear someone around you asking about why you can’t use one of the open ones, show off your new knowledge.

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Waiting on a gate