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Disclaimer: Total layman here.


I frequently fly into and out of Frankfurt Airport (FRA) with regional jets (flight time advertised as 45 minutes) and one thing that everyone is always annoyed about is that you spend approximately the same amount of time in transit on the ground in Frankfurt as you spend in the air.

I understand FRA is a huge airport, but what does not make any sense to me is that you...

  1. ...have to walk 10 min to the gate
  2. ...must spend 10 min on a bus to get you to the aircraft
  3. ...then spend at least 10-15 min on the aircraft as it taxis to its start position on the runway

Given that these regional connection flights are always on a tight schedule, I do not quite get why they do it this way.

Specifically, can anyone explain why — in FRA — these small jets are parked so far away from their landing/starting positions when you have to get there by bus anyway?

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  • $\begingroup$ Hm: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/9500/… ... seems this is a near dupe wrt. to a different airport. $\endgroup$ – Martin Ba Oct 1 '18 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ The "driving" is called taxying. $\endgroup$ – jcaron Oct 1 '18 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ Taxiing, rather. $\endgroup$ – Tanner Swett Oct 1 '18 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ The regional connecting flights may be on a tight schedule, but remember, the airlines and especially the ticketing agencies are well aware of this. They won't sell you a ticket on any 2 given flights where the connection time between the two is less than the standard minimum connection time for a given airport. Yes, you may have to hustle to get from gate A to gate B to make your connection, but the airline doesn't want to have you miss your flight - rebooking you costs money and creates other issues for them, too. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Oct 1 '18 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ Where are you flying to if I may ask? If you only fly 45 minutes and have to wait a long time before and after the flight, it might be faster to take the train. $\endgroup$ – Eric Duminil Oct 2 '18 at 8:35
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Why bus

The typical reason you use a bus to your low-cost carrier (LCC) or regional jet is the cheaper 'remote stands'. But this doesn't mean the stand is necessarily closer to the runway where the planes take off and land.

See: Who decides whether an airline docks at a jetbridge or parks at a remote stand?

Can't be too close

A big area around the runway needs to be clear of tall tail fins, light poles, equipment, etc., as it may affect the navigation equipment near the runway or pose a hazard to landing/departing aircraft.

Example: Why do some airports park the aircraft backwards at the gate?

Queue

An LCC plane won't get ahead in line just because it's parked closer to the runway. If a plane at the terminal pushed back and started its engines before the one at a remote stand, it will typically be ahead by the time the LCC one is ready to go.

Shorter flights also typically use a more congested airspace (they don't fly too high, the flight is short, and it's busy near airports), so there might be a delay in releasing that flight.

Remote stand analogy

I'm not sure which remote stand you typically use, but also in airport design it's fairly common to have the remote stand share the same taxiway (the road planes use to get to the runway) as the terminal.

enter image description here
(Google Earth - FRA)

Think of it like this, there's a road with a mall and its fancy parking on one side (1), and the cheap parking across the road (2). Regardless of where you park, when it's time to reach the highway, cars from the two parking lots will eventually merge (3).


That being said, 15 minutes to taxi to the takeoff position on the runway (not including the time to start the engines and to get the taxi clearance) is actually really good for a major airport such as FRA. Jetliners typically take 90-degree turns at slower than 15 km/h, and 40 km/h is common for straight lines. With a taxi distance of 2.25 km (example shown above), we are looking at a delay of ~12 minutes. FRA handles ~74 movements per hour (takeoffs and landings), assuming they use 3 runways, it's a takeoff every 2.4 minutes on your runway, or like waiting behind 5 other planes.

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  • $\begingroup$ The 10-15m Guesstimate was just the taxi time while the aircraft was actually moving :-) $\endgroup$ – Martin Ba Oct 1 '18 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinBa - Copy, see update ;) $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Oct 1 '18 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinBa: There's also the point that the remote stand in this image is 2.3 km from the other end of the runway too, but in the directly opposite direction! There simply isn't any place you can build a remote stand such that it would be closer to every point a takeoff roll might need to begin from. (And this one is pretty much right at the point where an arriving regional jet would come off the runway). $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Oct 1 '18 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinBa, 10–15 min is still excellent taxi-time for FRA. 30–45 is quite common there, especially when you get sent around to runway 18. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Oct 1 '18 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec I had that too. Didn't want to sound exaggerated in the post. :-) $\endgroup$ – Martin Ba Oct 2 '18 at 6:39
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I've recently experienced the same thing on Schiphol, but to me the things that you mention seem pretty obvious: it's all down to economics.

There is only so much parking space around the airport terminals. Aircraft for regional routes are smaller (50-120 passengers), so using a few buses to shuttle the passengers around is only a small undertaking. This allows the aircraft to be parked farther away from the terminals, and I can imagine that this decreases airport fees for the flight.

The regional flights mainly have competition from trains, buses and car travel. Using an airport takes up a lot of time (you didnt even mention luggage check-in and security), and you have to move around a lot. But all in all people still choose air travel because it is faster/cheaper/less of a hassle than other modes of transport for that specific route.

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  • $\begingroup$ What you write with the sapce around the terminal make much sense, but not my final question above: I would find it interesting why the airplanes are parked so far away / require so much driving around from the runway, when the pasgrs are ferried over by bus anyway. Would seem more efficient to have the bus drive further so that the taxiing of the plane could be shorter. $\endgroup$ – Martin Ba Oct 1 '18 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ Where should the aircraft parking be located according to you? Next to the runway? And which one? Airports like Frankfurt and Schiphol have many runways and which one are in use may change depending on wind direction and noise restrictions. And you don't want passenger aircraft to be parked at the other side of the airport, because you want as little traffic as possible crossing the runways and taxiways. $\endgroup$ – MadMarky Oct 1 '18 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ Schiphol has its own unique problem: the terminal was originally built near the old runways, but the new and preferred runway (Polderbaan, 18R, 3800 m) had to be built several kilometers from the terminal. If Schiphol would choose to uses buses for LCC's (like Frankfurt does), the problem would be that LCC's would have a major time advantage! Buses would be much faster than taxiing planes around a crowded airfield like Schiphol. $\endgroup$ – MSalters Oct 1 '18 at 14:53

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