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I have an extreme dislike for standing in queue's and waiting. The worst is standing in the airbridge, while people settle in. So whenever I fly with an assigned seat on the plane, I try to board as late as possible. I rather wander a bit on the airport then queue for some time. I don't mind the lack of storage space for cabin luggage, since I usually travel light.

That is why I try to postpone boarding as long as possible, but still I manage to end up standing in the airbridge most of the time, even when I thought I was pushing the limit.

Is there a rule of the thumb to estimate the latest time to board?

== Edit == No I don't want to be the person everybody is looking at because he delayed departure.

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3  
It is time to board when you hear you name from all the speakers of the airport for the third time. –  mouviciel Aug 17 '12 at 11:44
    
it depends how many risks you are willing to take haha I always give myself 2 hours, but I have been getting on the plane as it was meant to be leaving, where they shut the gate. I had to persuade the person to call the pilot and wait, was insanely close, but I would never want to go through that stress again!! –  user2989 Aug 17 '12 at 12:00

3 Answers 3

I like to reach the gate before boarding starts, but if I can't board early, I don't get up and join the lines. I just sit at the gate, as close as I can to the desk, with a book or something electronic. I'm right where I need to be, I'm not delaying anyone, but I'm not standing in line. I usually end up waiting for a minute or two in the jetway, and that doesn't bother me, but if it bothers you, wait until you hear the gate staff working out who they are missing, then down the jetway you go.

Just don't do your waiting in a lounge or restaurant. You run the risk of missing the plane or of delaying everyone else. That's selfish. Wait at the gate, and get there early enough that you get a seat, or else stand around waiting like everyone else. This will also ensure that you are aware of gate changes, delays, the chance to leave 5 minutes early since everyone's here, you being called for an op-up, and so on.

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I feel you, I hate waiting in queue during boarding too. Your strategy should depend on what boarding pattern the airline you're flying with uses. SeatGuru has a handy guide on typical airline boarding patterns that you should read up on.

  • If the airline you're flying with has a set boarding pattern, well then you'll just have to suck it up and join the queue. On the upside, a fixed boarding pattern means that the boarding process (theoretically?) could be faster although in reality this rarely ever works out. (And it's a fascinating simulation problem. Read this paper on airline boarding patterns if you're interested. Southwest Airlines did studies on this and stuck to having no pattern. But I digress.)
    • There's also a cultural element to this, depending on what country's airline you're flying with or what airport it is. As person used to queueing, you may be exasperated to find situations where technically boarding is in fixed patterns but nobody really listens to it. Any number of Indian or Asian airlines come to mind (except for Singapore Airlines). In that case, go with the crowd and board whenever you feel like it.
  • If your airline has assigned seating, but no set boarding pattern, then just wait until it eases up at the gate! This is what I typically do. I head to my boarding gate usually 30 minutes before departure (n.b. check the rules for your airport) or earlier if I have nothing else to do, and then sit down somewhere to check emails or read something while the queue eases up. You don't have to wait for more than 10-15 minutes usually, and you don't go through the hassle of standing in queue with your bags and ambling forward every now and then.

These tips will work for everyone. There are a couple of more tips that apply in special situations. For instance, some airlines offer priority boarding for a small extra fee (even with assigned seating), or offer priority boarding to "premium economy" passengers or those higher up in frequent flyer tiers.

So you can avoid the hassle of boarding queues either by flying a lot, buying your way through when you can, and if nothing else, then just NOT joining the queue while everyone else does.

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The boarding pattern is focused entirely on waiting to board. So if you're in Row 50 and they call "rows 30 and up" you don't have to go. You can wait for "rows 10 and up" or "all passengers" without breaking any rules. Of course you are likely to have a less-pleasant time trying to get back to row 50 past the VITs who are struggling with getting carryons into overfilled overheads in rows 11, 17, 22, and so on, but at least you didn't line up on the jetway. –  Kate Gregory Aug 17 '12 at 18:09

In my experience it is very rare for there to be a period at the end of boarding where the gate is still open, but no or few passengers are in the process of 'settling in'. This usually only happens if the flight is delayed at the last minute or if they keep it open for a passenger who is late to the gate (don't be that passenger!) who has checked in luggage that would need to be removed.

Usually, as soon as the 'rush' settles down, that is that. Typically, this is around the time when the flight is scheduled to depart. You could try to time your arrival at the gate to be around 5 minutes before departure, this will typically not be a problem.

However, doing so is disrespectful. If you are delayed on the way to the gate you could wind up delaying several hundred other people, just because you didn't want to stand in line for 5-10 extra minutes. Those people certainly do not enjoy sitting in those seats for an extra 5-10 minutes, waiting for you.

If not standing in line is this important to you, buy a first/business class ticket and avoid the queue. Otherwise, show consideration for your fellow travelers and arrive at the gate in a timely manner and try to board the plane as efficiently as possible.

You can, of course, seat yourself outside the gate and read/watch movies/listen to music/whatever until you are just about the last one there. Just be at the gate in a timely manner.

Sorry if this sounds a little harsh. I've just been in this situation too many times, where a plane full of people have to wait as much as 15 minutes because someone couldn't be bothered to get to the gate on time. In busy airports this delay can be compounded due to the flight missing its takeoff slot and having to wait for another one to become available. Ditto on the other end of the journey. Holding up the flight for 10 minutes can sometimes delay it up to an hour.

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