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Does United Use Hardstands (at international airports)More than Other Major Carriers?

Does United Use Hardstands (at international airports)More than Other Major Carriers?

Old Jan 18, 20, 9:49 pm
  #1  
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Does United Use Hardstands (at international airports)More than Other Major Carriers?

If my perceptionís wrong, Iím open to being corrected, but itís been my sense that United more readily leases hardstands, rather than jet-bridge gates, at foreign airports than does either Delta or AA (or other global carriers).

This past Friday, I landed in FRA on UA 898 from IAD. After seeing on the app that our arrival gate was listed as V129, I sighed and hoped for a last-minute change. No dice. At around 6:30 AM, we pulled up to a long line of hardstands that was empty but for three or four Ryanair planes a quarter-mile down.

On my LH connecting flight, we taxied past the hardstands, which were now populated by three UA aircraft and one DL plane. I could see that another DL aircraft was parked at a ďrealĒ (A/Z) gate, as was an AA plane. (Iíd have thought that, of all EU airports, UA would get better gate space than its rivals at this one.)

This has been my fourth time in recent months boarding or deplaning by stairs onto/off of an international UA flight. Earlier this month, it was bussing out to a 767 in S„o Paulo. Last year, arriving at a hardstand in AMS and departing from one in FRA. Consistently, Iíve seen a disproportionately high number of UA planes parked at remote gates compared to other carriersí.

I donít mean to be dramatic, and I get that gate space is sometimes limited. (Especially at FRA.) But the experience of either sweating on a bus and then lugging bags up the stairs to a 777 or getting off a plane and then waiting on a bus really undermines the whole premium-experience thing when traveling J or PE (and makes a joke of early boarding).

This year, Iíll be Platinum on both UA (earned) and Delta (matched). If UA really does lead the pack on hardstand usage so that it can cut gate-lease costs, Iíll give that real weight in deciding whether to shift my foreign flying. I donít want to pay premium for a carrier that competes with Ryanair for bussing.

Last edited by ezefllying; Jan 18, 20 at 9:56 pm
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Old Jan 18, 20, 10:24 pm
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IME, United uses far fewer hardstands at FRA than LH. I don’t know how UA compares to AA or DL at FRA because I always fly UA or LH there. At CDG it seems I get lots of handstand flights with AF.
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Old Jan 18, 20, 10:52 pm
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Originally Posted by ezefllying
If my perceptionís wrong, Iím open to being corrected, but itís been my sense that United more readily leases hardstands, rather than jet-bridge gates, at foreign airports than does either Delta or AA (or other global carriers).
I have flown quite a few UA international flights. IIRC, Iíve been bussed once ó upon arrival, at PVG, when we landed about 7 hours late. I think youíve just gotten unlucky. (I then got bussed on both CX and KA the next day...)

Iíve also been bussed by UA domestically ó at SEA, earlier on that same trip. (I didnít even know SEA had hard stands).

Anyway, if UA is the right airline for your other needs, personally, I wouldnít book away from it due to likelihood of taking a bus.
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Old Jan 18, 20, 10:57 pm
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UA is by far the largest USA carrier to FRA, UA has 6 routes and DL 3 -- and UA has more frequency.

So by the sheer numbers, you would expect UA to be more frequently seen at the remote stand.
A better is the ratio of total daily UA flights using remote stands vs DL or AA.

And I have had my fair share of LH, LX, ... remote stand flights.

Part of this may be driven by arrival times, flights at peak times are more likely to end up at remote stands.
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Old Jan 18, 20, 10:58 pm
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DL and AA operate from Terminal 2 at FRA, it's typically less busy than Terminal 1, especially during the morning TATL rush.

It's hard to compare if DL/AA uses more jetbridges than UA at international destinations, there are too many factors at play: hub vs. non-hub airports, terminal layout, gate assignments controlled by the airport authority, etc. Another fact might be that UA has too many flights to foreign destinations.

FRA gets 9-10x UA flights a day during the summer compared to 3x DL and 2x AA.
GRU gets 4x UA 4x AA and 2x DL.

From my experience in the last 2 years, I can only recall boarding from bus on 1 occasion on UA, FRA-EWR on 77W.
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Old Jan 18, 20, 11:04 pm
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Originally Posted by ezefllying
Consistently, Iíve seen a disproportionately high number of UA planes parked at remote gates compared to other carriersí.
Keep in mind, depending upon the length of the turn, an airline may tow a plane to a hard stand to park it. I see this all the time at AUS, because UA operates flights to all 7 hubs (sadly, the weekly CUN flight seems to have disappeared) but only leases 5 gates.
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Old Jan 19, 20, 9:35 am
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I am pretty much always on a bus at FRA on UA 988/989. And I can hear people complaining quite regularly on the bus for how cheap United is regarding this.

Whether this is due to congestion or not, it is always a terrible experience to be jammed into that bus early in the morning.
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Old Jan 19, 20, 10:36 am
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Originally Posted by HAudidoody
..And I can hear people complaining quite regularly on the bus for how cheap United is regarding this...
"Cheapness" may have nothing to do with it. It's the lack of gates. Southwest just started flying to Hawaii. WN uses available gates at OGG (notably defunct Island Air's gate 9 and a variable 2nd gate) but remotes at HNL because of lack of gates, not because it's cheap. A new extension is being added to Interisland terminal, so I'm guessing some HA flights will move there, freeing up gate space (eventually) for Southwest.
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Last edited by IAH-OIL-TRASH; Jan 19, 20 at 10:45 am
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Old Jan 19, 20, 10:44 am
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At many airports where gates are capacity constrained, the airline has no control over this. LAX TBIT is a good example, where both CX and SQ are forced to use remote stands.
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Old Jan 19, 20, 10:53 am
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At FRA, the airport will usually assign a remote bus gate to aircraft that are not turning immediately so that they don't tie up a jet-bridge for any longer than is absolutely necessary, and this is often the case for United aircraft since they have such a large operation there. Also late aircraft nearly always get remote bus gates.

The idea of using buses at FRA doesn't really bother me, but I really get annoyed at how poorly they are managed when departing. It seems we always get stuck in a long hallway for 10 minutes waiting for a bus to arrive (why start boarding when there isn't a bus there yet?), and then everyone is jammed into the buses like sardines (how much would it cost to get another one?). I don't know whether United or the airport controls the buses, but whoever it is could easily invest some money to make the experience better.
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Old Jan 19, 20, 11:22 am
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Originally Posted by jsloan
Keep in mind, depending upon the length of the turn, an airline may tow a plane to a hard stand to park it. I see this all the time at AUS, because UA operates flights to all 7 hubs (sadly, the weekly CUN flight seems to have disappeared) but only leases 5 gates.
This happens all the time at LHR. I've only once out of some 100 UA flights to/from there had a bus stand. But you regularly see UA, and other *A planes, on hardstands because they tow aircraft away when they are not doing a quick turn.
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Old Jan 19, 20, 11:59 am
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH
"Cheapness" may have nothing to do with it. It's the lack of gates. Southwest just started flying to Hawaii. WN uses available gates at OGG (notably defunct Island Air's gate 9 and a variable 2nd gate) but remotes at HNL because of lack of gates, not because it's cheap. A new extension is being added to Interisland terminal, so I'm guessing some HA flights will move there, freeing up gate space (eventually) for Southwest.
Yep. I remember old Kai Tek Airport in Hong Kong. Incredibly busy airport with only something like 20 gates. Tons of planes had to park remotely and use the bus.
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Old Jan 19, 20, 1:40 pm
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Originally Posted by Kacee
At many airports where gates are capacity constrained, the airline has no control over this. LAX TBIT is a good example, where both CX and SQ are forced to use remote stands.
You'll enjoy this read - the criteria for hard stand usage at LAX....Delta and partners get preferential treatment (maybe some deal associated with the terminal construction ?)...other factors include whether aircraft will do a turn to an intl departure, airline level penalties for multiple late flights and longevity of a route

https://www.lawa.org/-/media/lawa-we...protocols.ashx
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Old Jan 19, 20, 3:55 pm
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For all the bad mouthing people do to 3rd world airports, at least they don't shove you into that many hardstands as the Western European ones. Let me share my recent experience with a hard stand in FRA.

LH FRA-PHL
Getting past the boarding time, the agents as always are not fazed about departing on time. We all troop out to the bus and I am on the first bus on a long drive to the aircraft, which is another one of the ancient 747s. As we pull up, I notice that a bus load of people are already climbing the stairs. Wonder how they took a shortcut to the aircraft.

As we board, there are many disagreements on seats having more than one passenger assigned to it. Then a question gets raised whether this was the Orlando flight. Which is when we realize that the prior bus had dropped off passengers to the wrong stand. Now everything came to a standstill as the cabin crew just withdrew stating that the pilot will let you know what to do. Another 30 minutes went by before they called for the Orlando passengers to dis-embark for their new bus. At the same time we got additional bus loads for the PHL flight, which made it a mess.

As we settled in, there were no attempts in closing the door. Another 30 minutes went by before the cabin crew started walking through checking everyone's boarding pass to ensure we are the right passengers. After another interminable wait, the pilot said as per TSA regulation (got to blame someone) we had to disembark the aircraft and head back to the terminal for a security check. Now the entire aircraft dis-embarked and we got bused back to the terminal. After further waiting, our passports were checked against the boarding pass (that was the security check) which got scanned again before getting on the same bus back to the aircraft. The interesting thing was there was a trolley filled with stuff that people had left on board.

Needless to say another day with LH at FRA with or without a hardstand.
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Old Jan 19, 20, 4:21 pm
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I have never seen UA use a hardstand at PEK, yet CA does it regularly. In fact they even load their 747-8 that goes to SFO from a bunch of buses. Last time I flew CA F, I took the bus over to the plane (and F pax go in the same buses as everyone else). While it's kind of annoying to not be able to just use a jetbridge, the flipside is that you get a GREAT view of the aircraft and can take photos before you board.
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