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I recently traveled from Sweden to Thailand through Doha, Qatar. I was checked in for the two international and the domestic Thai flight in Stockholm, by the time I arrived at Doha I had completely forgotten what the departure time for my flight to BKK was.

In Doha the flight departure monitors don't show English names and there was no flight listed that had the time listed on my ticket. So of course one resorts to using the trusted flight number. This I found after some time, it had some added 0's to it, but nothing too strange.

But the flight time didn't match my ticket, so I went to the info counter that pointed me towards the same gate that was listed on the monitors, but did not provide any reason for the time discrepancy between the monitor and my ticket.

On the screen at the gate it did say "Next flight to Bangkok", again time didn't match. But the flight number did match. There were people boarding through the gate, but I thought it was way too early to board, so I asked an official there that told me to sit down and wait after I show my ticket, then quickly ran off.

It was me and about 20 other travelers that were equally confused at this time.

Later I figured this out: "Next flight" they mean "upcoming flight after the current one", they simply didn't post anywhere what the "current" flight was, which would have made that clear.

Of course the time on my ticket was the Boarding time, but the time on the monitor was the Departure time.

At BKK I was treated to a similar situation, by having my boarding time on the ticket and not the Departure time. But the info at the gate was much more clear and also a helpful lady showed me a list with departure and boarding times, flight number and destination.

After I got my luggage at the final destination I could confirm all this by checking the information found on the print from my booking confirmation.

It has never been a problem before because I've never been as tired and never in an airport that doesn't show English at all or even airport codes. At least I think that's why, I never noticed the problem before anyway. And since it was 20 others with the same experience there must have been something weird going on in Doha?

My question now is if there is any way I can avoid similar confusion in the future when traveling?

Can I find out the departure time in any easy way when I have forgotten (or accidentally thrown) my printed booking information?

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Usually, boarding starts 30-45 minutes before departure in narrow body airplanes and 45-60 minutes in wide body airplanes. But that's not a fixed a rule. –  MeNoTalk Oct 21 '12 at 22:12

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

There is no direct way to deduce departure time from boarding time. Different airports, different countries and even different airlines have different policies on this, so there is no fixed "It will depart x minutes after boarding" that you can rely on.

What you would be better off doing is keeping a written itinerary if you are prone to forgetting. I do this even with small journeys, using TripIT so I have a copy in my phone, and a paper printout with me, both of which containing all my flight info, terminals etc, connection times, hotels booking numbers and meeting times.

As commented by @DJClayworth and @jwenting, other differences can come from the transit times from gate to aeroplane (is the plane at the stand adjacent to the gate, or is a bus required to take you to the other side of the airport?) and from logistic or technical delays of many kinds.

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Just to make this even more extreme, I've seen cases where flights with the same airline and same kind of aircraft at the same airport have different time between boarding an take-off; if for example one at a gate and one is boarding by bus. –  DJClayworth Oct 22 '12 at 3:06
    
and different delays, usually caused by different passengers forgetting to get to the gate on time because they're shopping or eating in the departure lounge, or less frequently because of technical problems, make the spread even larger. Different aircraft types also require different amounts of time to board, and then there's the availability of ground handling equipment. In one case I experienced, boarding had to be delayed half an hour because the airline had forgotten to move the aircraft from a hangar to the gate... –  jwenting Oct 22 '12 at 4:21
    
More info than I even needed, but that can't be a bad thing :D And speaking of buses, yes indeed, every flight through Doha needs a bus transfer because the whole place is a building site. It was absolutely terrible, I can see they had tried to make the info good, but there were plenty of places for improvement. Standing in that bus for what felt like 30 min (was probably 8 or 10) made me realize I would've happily paid extra to fly with another airline had I known about it. Lesson learned - not only check the airlines, do a checkup on the airports too. –  Alendri Oct 22 '12 at 14:48

Many airlines, travel agents, and third-party sites such as TripCase and TripIt offer flight status alerts that send an SMS with gate info and departure times in advance of each flight.

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The simple answer is no as each airline and airport will set boarding times differently.

They may take into account gate location - if the gate is longer walk from the main departures area the gate may open early for earlier boarding.

They will also consider the flights destination - if the flight is an international flight they are likely to open the gate earlier to allow for the potential increase in passengers boarding.

Bigger aircrafts will also require longer to board. For example boarding 350+ people on a 747/A380 will take longer than 150 people on an A319.

It may also depend on how long the turn around is for the aircraft. If it's a LCC the chances are the plane will land, arrive at gate, get emptied, get refilled and depart. As such the gate number may not be known until relatively late on.

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