How long does it take to refuel a big jumbo jet? What about a smaller A320?

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    $\begingroup$ It's not really clear what is meant by "jumbo jet". A 777? An A340? The ICAO uses the categories heavy, medium and light for aircraft; I think that the category super (i.e. super-heavy; only the A380 is in this category) is not an official one but is still recommended for use in ATC communications. I think most jet airliners are "heavy". $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ The categories are for traffic separation due to wake turbulence. The category "super heavy" does exist at this time it is only used for the A380. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 7:18

4 Answers 4


It depends on a number of factors like:

  • the aircraft size and variant

  • the range required

  • the aircraft load

  • equipment available

  • Ground crew proficiency

...among others things.

This figure from the 737 Airport Planning document gives 9 minutes for the fueling time for a Boeing 737-600:


Image from B737 Airplane characteristics for Airport Planning

The following image shows the time taken for refueling a Boeing 747-8 Jumbo to be 44 minutes:


Image from B747-8 Airplane Characteristics for Airport Planning

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    $\begingroup$ I need the name of the airline that can deplane in 6 minutes and board in 9. They are going to get all my business from now on. Or 12 minutes to board a 747. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ It would be nice to just list the times in the chart for fueling so a reader doesn't have to figure out the chart to get the number. Also, text is more search-friendly. $\endgroup$
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting factoid: takes longer to offload crap than to load fuel in a 737.... $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell - That's hardly surprising. Fueling is a relatively simple homogeneous process. Essentially you just plug the hoses in and turn on the pumps until you're done. (There's obviously a bit more to it, but it's mostly routine, predictable.) Moving cargo involves humans making judgement calls on where to put things so they don't fall over, trying not to damage things, balancing the load, making everything fit, making sure the luggage goes where it needs to go, etc. Much more room for variation in that sort of thing, so you have to include fudge-time. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ @ManuH If we only lived in an ideal world with spherical cows in a friction-less vacuum everything would be easier. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 20:46

It depends on how many equipment are being used to refuel and how much fuel an aircraft needs. But in general there are some ratings which manufacturers issue for handling and ground time.

For example, a B747-8 has (according to 747-8 Airplane Characteristics for Airport Planning):

  • maximum usable fuel capacity of about 59,734 U.S. gallons or 226,113 liters
  • 8 fueling nozzles
  • max fueling rate of 500 US gpm (1,890 lpm) per nozzle
  • total max fuel pressure 50 PSIG

Therefore, in theory it's possible to refuel an empty B747-8 to its maximum usable fuel capacity in 15 min with all 8 nozzles. In normal refueling configuration two trucks (one truck each wing) being used which serves 4 pressure nozzle and takes 30 min to refuel 56,553 US gallons. So standard fueling time for this aircraft estimated about 50 min.

For A320-200 though these ratings are (according to Airbus A320 airplane characteristics for airport planning):

  • maximum usable fuel capacity of 6,303 U.S. gallons or 23,859 liters
  • 6 fueling nozzles
  • max fueling rate 369.84 US gpm (1,400 lpm) per nozzle
  • total max fuel pressure 50 PSIG

And the estimated fueling time is about 15 min refueling 6,303 U.S. gallons using one truck serving two nozzles.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer seems to be saying that an A320 has only one tenth the fuel capacity of a 747. $\endgroup$
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisW Yes, that's what it's saying. It's true. $\endgroup$
    – nobody
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 12:07
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisW - This may clear things up a little :) a 747's engines are nearly the same diameter as an A320 fuselage... c2.staticflickr.com/6/5528/14609549344_1d5c8f9d3e_b.jpg $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisW yes. Based on those official documents and other technical documents. Another example is 737ng with usable fuel capacity of 20,800kg. $\endgroup$
    – Navid
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JonStory And even the 747's engines look small when mounted next to a GE90-115b (the engine for the 777-300ER.) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 17:54

I worked for a long haul airline with 744s departing South East Asia to Europe.

The airplane usually required 120-140 metric tonnes of fuel for the trip back. There would usually be around 15-20 tonnes left from the previous sector and you would usually require around 30-40 minutes to fuel 100-120 tonnes. This is using two pumps, one on each wing.

The problem was if you needed to fuel up to max which was around 170 tonnes (depending on the fuel density), the last 10-20 tonnes took longer to fuel. This was rare though. Since we only had slightly more than an hours ground time we had to board while fueling was in progress. There is an SOP for this, basically a door had to be open at the rear and a set of steps positioned, we usually used door 5L. Also passengers were told not to fasten seat belts, crews were required to be at their stations and most importantly a firetruck had to be standing-by at the stand. We had to pay for the firetruck call-out but on-time departure was more important.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for this interesting first-hand account! Out of curiosity, why did the last tonnes take longer to fuel? $\endgroup$
    – Jake
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 14:02

According to this article, it generally takes about 1-2 hours to fuel a large jumbo such as an A380. As for smaller jets, the second answer to the Yahoo! question says that Southwest Airlines claims to be able to turn a plane around in 20 minutes. Given that the Southwest fleet is made up entirely of 737s, a jet such as the 737 or A320 should take about 15-20 minutes to refuel.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that quick turn around flights carry enough fuel for multiple legs. Usually the quick turn arounds are short regional hops and the airline may purchase fuel where it's cheaper. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer most airlines do not buy fuel like you and I do at the pump. See fuel hedging. Chances are, they will fill up when required. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer The more fuel you have loaded, the more fuel you will burn just to carry it around. Ryanair has been fined because they repeatedly carried so little fuel that they fell below minimum required reserve during the first or second hold pattern, so the captain had to declare an emergency. If Ryanair acts like that, it must save them a buck or two... $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ @BurhanKhalid, purchasing and hedging are two separate activities. Or at least often are. Goldman Sachs enters into and/or brokers hedging contracts. No one at Goldman Sachs is pumping fuel into a 737. Nor is Goldman Sachs contracting with anyone to pump fuel. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 0:12

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