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A trip I took led me to wonder how airports/airlines decide when to allocate a gate and when to board out on the apron.

Yesterday, I flew TLV-IST-BOS on Turkish Airlines. At the start of the trip, I briefly wondered if we were travelling to Istanbul (IST) by bus. The airplane was parked far from the gate.

We got to IST, and, once more to ride the bus. In this case, we parked at jetway, but we were sent down the stairs and onto a bus. Turkish sure is a big, legacy airline at IST.

And, to complete the process, our A340 for Boston was parked half-way to Europe, and reached by a bus.

What determines all this? Bad luck? Plane size?

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  • $\begingroup$ It happened to me to in IST. The aircraft was most probably on maintenance and had just come out. $\endgroup$ – Fabrizio Mazzoni Dec 19 '15 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ Its the money. Low cost airlines save by avoiding the more expensive jet bridges. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Dec 19 '15 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell, I actually think its more on topic here. It is about airline operations, not about travel advice. Though it should probably be reworded to something more generic along the lines "how are gates allocated to flights". $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Dec 20 '15 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ The current version is; when I made the comment above it was (IMO) not. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell Dec 21 '15 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterKämpf Sometimes it's that. Other times it's just because they don't have enough gates at a particular terminal. The international terminal at LAX is an example of this. I've deplaned off of a Cathay 777-300ER onto a bus there before. Before the new part of their international terminal opened, they only had 12 gates with jet bridges at their international terminal (despite LAX being #3 in the U.S. for international passengers, at 18.7 million/year.) They were parking A380s, 747s, and 777s at stands and bussing people in. Fortunately, they have a lot more gates with jetways now. $\endgroup$ – reirab Dec 21 '15 at 16:08
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This can depend on all kinds of things, so it's hard to give a definitive answer:

  • Many low-cost airlines park at remote stands as this is cheaper than parking at a jet-bridge.

  • Some airports have jet bridges that can't handle particular aircraft types (often large aircraft at small airports) and therefore these aircraft must park at remote stands.

  • Related to the above, some airports have no customs facilities for jet bridge arrivals (or vice-versa) and therefore international flights must be parked at a remote stand and passengers bussed to customs/immigration.

  • Sometimes a flight will be allocated a jet bridge in advance but then suffers from a delayed arrival. By the time it gets to the destination the jet bridge that was assigned to it is taken by another aircraft. In this case, the aircraft may have to be parked at a remote stand.

  • As you say, bad luck can play a role. Airports have a limited number of jet bridges and sometimes there's just no space for your aircraft.

  • Lastly, in my experience it is particularly common to get a remote stand if you arrive late in the evening: Some airlines like parking remotely in this circumstance as it's cheaper than parking overnight at a jet bridge.

As I said, it's hard to give a definitive answer but the above are some common causes for being placed at a remote stand.

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    $\begingroup$ The first point is also likely to affect regional flights even by legacy airlines. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Dec 21 '15 at 15:09

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