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Why Do Americans Tolerate "Gate Waiting?"

Why Do Americans Tolerate "Gate Waiting?"

Old Dec 29, 19, 10:56 am
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Why Do Americans Tolerate "Gate Waiting?"

I expatriated to Asia starting in about 2008 and moved back to the U.S. earlier this year. Now I travel quite a bit domestically for work. While I realize that it certainly isn’t anything new in America, I have noticed one striking difference when it comes to airports and air travel here: the "gate wait."

When you land before your designated time pretty much anywhere else in the world and your gate is occupied, your aircraft is directed to a parking area where "air stairs" are used to deplane passengers, who are then promptly bussed to the terminal. Simple really.

This is true from Hong Kong to Geneva to Mexico City. Most third-world countries that I’ve visited also engage in the same practice. But this very rarely seems to happen at most major airports in America. While there are a few notable exceptions, it's mostly just f-you and wait as a general rule.

My flight from SFO to LAX earlier this week took 48 minutes in the air, but we spent even more time on the ground at our destination waiting for an open gate. It then took around 30 minutes to get our bags, and another 35 to (finally) get onto our shuttle bus to the rental car agency. In total, it took just over 7 hours from door to door. We could have driven faster.

By contrast, in cities like Phnom Penh or Da Nang, it’s not at all uncommon for the bags to hit the carousel before even the most customs-expedited passengers do. And there’s never a wait for an occupied gate.

I suppose this is really a question more than a complaint: WHY do Americans put up with this, silently suffering and accepting it as the status quo when the solution is SO easy? It just seems like passengers here are resigned to an inferior, less efficient process. It is embarrassing for our nation, and I truly don't understand it at all.

Anyone care to enlighten me?
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Last edited by AADFW; Dec 29, 19 at 11:01 am Reason: APEC error.
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Old Dec 29, 19, 11:41 am
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I agree waiting for a gate is annoying, but IMO one of the best parts about flying in the US is the rarity of using bus gates.
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Old Dec 29, 19, 11:45 am
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Originally Posted by will2288 View Post
I agree waiting for a gate is annoying, but IMO one of the best parts about flying in the US is the rarity of using bus gates.
That's fair, but would you rather wait an hour on the aircraft or immediately deplane and take a bus, saving perhaps 40 minutes or more?
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Old Dec 29, 19, 12:39 pm
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in all honesty, I can’t give a definitive answer to that ... it can depend on whether I’m outbound or returning home, time of day, what’s next on my calendar, how much carry-on I have to drag around, and the like
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Old Dec 29, 19, 1:30 pm
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I would expect that the closest to real answer lies in the general fact that most US airports weren't designed with bus gates in the field, and most US airports don't have much in the common use department. It isn't as simple as plopping a plane down somewhere in the (don't say) tarmac and pulling up buses that can just drive anywhere to get you to the terminal building (you know, right after you disembark, walk down the stairs, and are greeted with a kiss and a lei).
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Old Dec 29, 19, 1:36 pm
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The question to OP is whether, in general, he arrives at his hotel any faster. My experience that the delay in taxiing to a holding stand (bus gate), waiting for air stairs, then waiting to disembark and be bused to the terminal, takes a good 45 minutes (for flights which are scheduled for a jetway arrival).

Thus, there is rarely a time-saving in this process.

As to US airports, they simply are not set up for this and use space more efficiently.
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Old Dec 29, 19, 1:45 pm
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And many US airports get weather that no Asian airport would ever see.. Snow? Ice? Sub zero temps? If bus gates can't be used due to such factors for significant portions of the year its even less efficient/cost effective to set that up parallel to the usual gate system. It certainly has NOT been MY experience in Asia (or "pretty much the rest of the world") on early arrivals, Ive sat and sat in Asian airports too waiting for a gate....
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Old Dec 29, 19, 2:14 pm
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Originally Posted by trooper View Post
And many US airports get weather that no Asian airport would ever see.. Snow? Ice? Sub zero temps? If bus gates can't be used due to such factors for significant portions of the year its even less efficient/cost effective to set that up parallel to the usual gate system. It certainly has NOT been MY experience in Asia (or "pretty much the rest of the world") on early arrivals, Ive sat and sat in Asian airports too waiting for a gate....
Somehow Iceland manages to use buses to get pax to the terminal despite some pretty fierce weather. Can't say that I enjoyed the experience - we got soaking wet twice, transfer from plane to bus, then back to bus later for next flight.
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Old Dec 29, 19, 2:39 pm
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I think that at foreign airports, they plan on a bus gate. I'm not so sure that they are scheduled for a gate with a jetway, arrive to see that it's occupied, and then park at a hard stand.

However, I do think that airlines in the US should have the flexibility to use a hard stand if there's an expected delay of more than 30 minutes. It would take some advance planning to how the airline will be able to switch, such as getting connecting bags to the plane when it later departs.

Part of the problem might be that stairs seem to be almost forbidden possibly due to US handicapped regulations. However, there are ramps now, such as in Long Beach and Paine Field (Washington).
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Old Dec 29, 19, 3:07 pm
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I'd say it's partly the labour costs of bus and air stair drivers (and wheelchair lift operators) as well as capital and maintenance cost, as well as who pays for them (airline either through own or contractor, or airport, etc.) and how. Not just for regular use but sitting around just in case they're needed. A lot of people don't remember but for U.S.-made planes, 737s, 727s, DC-9s and perhaps some MD-80s once had integral air stairs (like some "commuter" planes still have today). Maybe the Jetway is simpler and easier as far as cost allocation goes.

One intermediate step was those mobile lounges which was a bus that elevated the passenger cabin to a/c door level. Once found at least at IAD and PHL.

I think it's the expectation of air stair otherwise it's seen as too.... 3rd world. The use of jetways for small a/c, especially the adapters between airstair and a/c door, astounds me.

FWIW, many air stairs are covered so passengers are at least partially protected from the elements.

Many major European hubs manage with air stairs and busses. FRA, AMS, CDG, FCO for example.

The best (or rather worst) combo of the lot is arriving at jetway gate in HNL only to have to use the Wiki Wiki shuttle to get to the terminal.
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Old Dec 29, 19, 3:21 pm
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interesting question

The real question is why do airlines put up with these delays?
The aircraft, the crew, and the passengers are all left "waiiting" for the airport to assign a gate.
Its not just in Asia, BTW, that gate waiting is rare, I know that in FRA, for example, the norm is to park the plane at a remote gate and bus passengers to the terminal. Ditto for Lisboa.
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Old Dec 29, 19, 4:23 pm
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Could use one of these to handle wheelchairs.


But yes, there's a lot of infrastructure needed at US airports to support remote stands.
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Last edited by SFO_LOW_CLOUDS; Dec 29, 19 at 4:32 pm
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Old Dec 29, 19, 5:42 pm
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Originally Posted by AADFW View Post
I expatriated to Asia starting in about 2008 and moved back to the U.S. earlier this year. Now I travel quite a bit domestically for work. While I realize that it certainly isn’t anything new in America, I have noticed one striking difference when it comes to airports and air travel here: the "gate wait."

When you land before your designated time pretty much anywhere else in the world and your gate is occupied, your aircraft is directed to a parking area where "air stairs" are used to deplane passengers, who are then promptly bussed to the terminal. Simple really.

This is true from Hong Kong to Geneva to Mexico City. Most third-world countries that I’ve visited also engage in the same practice. But this very rarely seems to happen at most major airports in America. While there are a few notable exceptions, it's mostly just f-you and wait as a general rule.

My flight from SFO to LAX earlier this week took 48 minutes in the air, but we spent even more time on the ground at our destination waiting for an open gate. It then took around 30 minutes to get our bags, and another 35 to (finally) get onto our shuttle bus to the rental car agency. In total, it took just over 7 hours from door to door. We could have driven faster.

By contrast, in cities like Phnom Penh or Da Nang, it’s not at all uncommon for the bags to hit the carousel before even the most customs-expedited passengers do. And there’s never a wait for an occupied gate.

I suppose this is really a question more than a complaint: WHY do Americans put up with this, silently suffering and accepting it as the status quo when the solution is SO easy? It just seems like passengers here are resigned to an inferior, less efficient process. It is embarrassing for our nation, and I truly don't understand it at all.

Anyone care to enlighten me?
It's a decent point but, on the flip side, American airports tend to do a few things much better than foreign airports (especially when arriving at the airport to go on our departing flight).

1) Our gates are listed hours before the flight unlike foreign airports where passengers are typically left walking and pacing back and forth until their gates are listed 30-45 minutes before departure time. That's super annoying.
2) At American airports, we don't need to catch a bus from the gate to the plane to board. We simply walk to our gate and board right there in a very orderly fashion. When having to bus to the gate, once you exit the bus, it's a giant free-for-all with people running to the stairs which creates quite a stressful environment.

So, my return question to the OP would be, why do foreigners tolerate the above?
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Old Dec 29, 19, 7:08 pm
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Originally Posted by will2288 View Post
I agree waiting for a gate is annoying, but IMO one of the best parts about flying in the US is the rarity of using bus gates.

Hear hear! CDG is the worst for deplaning at a bus gate!
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Old Dec 29, 19, 7:18 pm
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Originally Posted by Sandeep1 View Post
It's a decent point but, on the flip side, American airports tend to do a few things much better than foreign airports (especially when arriving at the airport to go on our departing flight).

1) Our gates are listed hours before the flight unlike foreign airports where passengers are typically left walking and pacing back and forth until their gates are listed 30-45 minutes before departure time. That's super annoying.
the plane can be scheduled for a gate before 30-45min. its's a deliberate design in a few airports for various reasons.

(eg LHR, force you to remain in common area to shop. other airports, don't want to build more seats in gate area. while some airports use common gates, so an airline may not know exactly what gate to use compared to the big3 stateside controlling an entire terminal)


KEF airport grew too fast, have to use bus gates (though with WOW gone, it may be better)
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