Monday, January 9, 2012

Why do airlines change gates? Why is my flight delayed ? My friend is at the airport and says the weather is fine!

I've been wanting to write this for a while.

Every now and then airlines change the gate for departing...and arriving flights. This isn't done for fun. It causes a lot of headaches.

Let's just look at two gates call them gate 10 and gate 15

Flight 290 is scheduled to leave at 8AM from gate 10.

Flight 042 is scheduled to arrive at gate 10 at 8:20AM. The same plane is to leave from gate 10 at 8:55AM.

Flight 831 is scheduled to arrive at gate 15 at 8:25AM. The same plane is to leave from gate 15 at 8:55AM.

Flight 290 has a mechanical issue at 7:55AM. No ETA yet.

Flight 042 lands at 8:10AM and is told to hold for gate 10.

At 8:15AM Flight 831 lands. ETA for flight 290's repair is 8:45AM.

Flight 042 is sent to gate 15. All the passengers waiting for the next departure at 8:55AM are sent from gate 10 to gate 15. Additionally all the baggage handlers are alerted as Flight 042 has connecting passengers. Baggage handlers have to go to gate 15 to get the new bags. Additionally the handlers have to bring the bags for the outbound flight down from gate 10 to gate 15.

After the baggage handlers are alerted the fueler, caterers, cleaning crew and flight crews must be alerted to the gate change.

Flight o42 pulls into gate 15 on time at 8:20AM.

Flight 831 pulls up and is told gate 15 is occupied and there are currently no open gates. Hold.

The same alerts go out for flight 831. Meanwhile flight 290 is waiting at gate 10. Every minute of delay cost money as that plane is scheduled to do other flights and the flight crews are scheduled to fly other flights.

Some joke that changing gates is our "Passenger fitness program" as they walk from gate to gate. Trust me flight crews hate gate changes just as much as passengers as we know all the behind the scenes stuff has to work just right. Sometimes it's flawless...more often than not it's not.

Airlines plan for the best...clear skies, perfect planes and perfect passengers. Sometimes things just go bad.

It's not always a mechanical issue that causes a delay.

Hey passengers....some of you treat my aircraft like a dumpster. You leave all kinds of crap stuffed in the seat pockets (even though the flight attendants pass by several times for trash), you let your kids tear up magazines and leave bits all over the floor, you are just messy. Not to mention sometimes people "toss their cookies" and don't always hit the bags.

The worst I've had was a family of 5 sitting in a row. Mom was holding a baby. Kid one next to the mom. Two other siblings across the aisle. One kid vomited. Then another. Then the mom....onto the baby she was holding. No one hit a bag. It all hit the seats...the walls...the floor. Bad. Delays.

And when weather happens....again more gate delays. When pilots/gate agents state it's a ATC/Weather really is an ATC/Weather Delay. Your "friends" might be at the airport you're flying to and it might be BEAUTIFUL. But it might be really crappy a few miles away on an important airway/route to the airport.

Think I'm done with my soap box. The big point is....when delays happen....roll with it. Yelling at a gate agent...being rude to a flight attendant or posting a rude comment on twitter/Facebook will get you no where fast. non-stop flights....directly with the airline. I call people who book on sites like Expedia , expidiots. If something goes wrong and you book with the airline...they help directly. If you book with Expedia.

If you must have a connection...give yourself time. If you are connecting thru Chicago in the winter...don't book a 45 minute connection.

If you are flying on a regional jet there's a 95% chance your carry on bag won't fit. The bins are smaller. Blame Embraer and Bombardier....not the flight attendant. And don't you dare say, "it always fits"....because it won't. Just leave it in the appropriate area.

K...gonna put my soapbox away for a while.


  1. I know this article is 7 years old, but still thanks! I just got my gate changed and was curious of why this happens sometimes. Great insight!

  2. My flight gate just got changed. I was grateful for the article. It gave me so much compassion for all the employees who have to deal with this unwanted ordeal. I can now see the flight crew at the new gate waiting for the plane to arrive. I will express my gratitude to them for being so flexible to help me get to my destination. Thank you for posting the explanation


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