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When flying on a long-haul flight, you can often see gate allocations for when you land a hour or two before actually arriving at the airport, including transfer information and connecting flights. However, with so many aircraft and frequently changing situations, how do they manage to allocate these gates so far out in advance?

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    $\begingroup$ I'd point out that the gates do change with delays/early arrivals sometimes. But generally they are pretty good. I'm curious as well $\endgroup$ – SSumner Feb 5 '14 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ some airliners just lease/reserve a set of gates for their own planes $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Feb 5 '14 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ There's also an element of 'once you've allocated a gate, stick to it' with this. Meaning: there's a fixed set of costs in changing gates, even if the benefits of a sudden gate change might look greater on paper. So, airlines don't change gates real time, all the time to achieve full optimization. And there's always (or almost always) a bit of excess capacity to deal with changes. At airports where there is no excess gate capacity at all, things can get pretty nasty quickly. $\endgroup$ – Pete855217 Mar 29 at 15:15
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Route times are pretty well known. If you know when the plane should depart and how long the flight should last, it's pretty easy to calculate when it will be arriving. Give a few minutes leeway on either side, and you should be good. If the plane is not there on time, you send it somewhere else.

Most large aircraft have some sort of ACARS that allows them to talk to company dispatch and let them know if they're going to be early or late, among other things. Barring that, they almost always have a company radio frequency that they can relay messages on one way or another.

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  • $\begingroup$ It also helps when an airline owns (or is the sole lessee for) a terminal at a given airport. Jet Blue knows what's going on at their terminal at JFK, and if changes to gate assignments need to be made the dispatchers can inform your flight crew, who can in turn pass that information along to you. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Feb 5 '14 at 3:43

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