You may have circled the airport, taxied for a long time, and even been waylaid just feet from the terminal waiting for a gate to open up. But now you're at the gate and are excited to get to your hotel or catch your next flight in time. However, you find yourself waiting first to get off the plane and again to get your bag. Despite the plane being at the gate, nothing seems to happen. Rest assured that while everyone inside the aircraft may be at a standstill, a lot is happening around you to facilitate your onward journey.
AT THE GATE
When a plane pulls into the gate, the ground crew must wait for the all-clear to approach the aircraft. Then, many things begin happening at once, depending on how many staff are available.
Someone will begin lining up the jet bridge with the aircraft door. They'll signal the flight attendant when it is in position. The flight attendant then unlocks the door after checking that the pressure inside the aircraft has normalized to match the outside air.
Simultaneously, other staff open the cargo door and begin to unload bags. If on a regional jet, gate-checked bags and strollers are obtained first and brought around to the jet bridge so passengers can take them as they exit.
Before the flight attendant steps away from the door to allow the first class to begin exiting, they'll tell the ground crew of any needed wheelchairs or service items.
Any of these steps along the way can experience hiccups. For example, if multiple aircraft arrive simultaneously, staff might be stretched thin, or needed equipment might be in use elsewhere. Occasionally a jet bridge might break, and maintenance may be required before it can move towards the plane.
LEAVE YOURSELF TIME
With these potential snags, plus weather or maintenance issues that can delay your flight, it's crucial to leave yourself enough time to catch your next flight.
When booking a flight with a connection, pay attention to how much time you have between landing and when your next flight boards. While it can always change, see if you can tell if your flight will land and depart from the same terminal or one farther away. Leave time to walk to your next flight, or even take a train there. Leaving time for a delay will help you get to your next flight and ensure the airline has enough time to transfer any luggage you checked.
HELP YOURSELF OUT
While everyone seems to like boarding a plane first, getting off first is sometimes more important. Therefore, when selecting your seat assignment, consider a Premium Economy seat or at least an exit row seat depending on the size of the plane you are travelling on. While the extra legroom is nice, sitting 15 or more rows closer to the front might be the difference between making your next flight or experiencing a missed connection.