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Tomorrow I am flying from BWI to ORD (flight NK761), then ORD to MSY (flight NK815). Right now 761 is listed as arriving at gate L11. Flight 815 is listed as departing from gate L11. 761 lands at ORD at 7:35am... 815 is supposed to depart at 8:05am, which is cutting it close, but shouldn't be an issue as long as my first flight is not delayed.

My question is, how can two different flights, with overlapping arrival/departure times, be scheduled for the same gate? What if we aren't able to deplane from my first flight because my second flight is at the gate and boarding?

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    This early on, I wouldn't pay too much attention to the assigned gates. It matters much more closer to expected arrival/departure time. – Jim MacKenzie Mar 22 '18 at 19:08
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    It's also possible, that both flights are operated by the same plane. For some airlines turnaround times of 30 minutes are not unusual. – dunni Mar 22 '18 at 19:34
  • It takes time to taxi to and from the gate to the runway. I'm not quite clear from your post exactly what time things arrive and depart. But this could easily amount to 10 minutes at some airports. Allowing a small section of overlap if you just compare the arrival and departure time. – skifans Mar 22 '18 at 19:36
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    Also, many airlines, such as American Airlines, intentionally pad their arrival times so that when the flight arrives on time, it arrives "earlier" than the scheduled arrival time, while a flight that arrives strictly "on time" is actually late. – gparyani Mar 22 '18 at 19:37
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    Surely it's the same aircraft. – phoog Mar 22 '18 at 21:15
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According to flightradar24 the aircraft with registration N529NK flew BWI-ORD-MSY on Mar 22. On March 23 N521NK is/was scheduled to fly BWI-ORD but due to disruption landed in BOS 15 hours late. Hence its schedule for today doesn't make much sense.

It is scheduled to fly BOS-BWI and land in BWI at 9:06am and then miraculously take off at 06:17 to fly BWI-ORD. Either the flight will be delayed or another aircraft will fly this route.

In summary, the reason for the same gate is that it was supposed to be the same aircraft. Whether it will be is another question.

Update: It seems N521NK did fly BWI-ORD (NK761) but unfortunately landed two hours late leading to the missed connection to ORD-MSY (NK815) which was operated by N506NK. I suspect that lead to the OP spending rather a long day at various airports today.

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L is a new set of gates for American Eagle at ORD.

It is not uncommon to see Eagle flights blocked for only 30 minutes at the gate.

99%, the aircraft that operates BWI-ORD will also be operating the ORD-MSY flight.

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    I am thinking/hoping you are right! I noticed there is another flight 761, going from ORD to Minneapolis, but that one is leaving from gate L9. You would think if two flights have the same flight number, they are going to be on the same aircraft. But I did some reading and apparently it is quite common for "direct" flights with the same flight number to be on different aircrafts. I am hoping that both of my flights being Spirit and at gate L11, means it will be the same aircraft, and I won't miss my connection. – Connor Herring Mar 22 '18 at 22:02
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What if we aren't able to deplane from my first flight because my second flight is at the gate and boarding?

Then the ground ops controllers at the airport will either hold your inbound flight on a taxiway or at a hold point until the gate has cleared, or reassign your inbound flight to another gate, or park you at a remote stand and bus you to the terminal.

Gate assignments are in no way fixed in stone - they can change at a moments notice. Often at busy airports, aircraft will get assigned a gate once they have landed and are taxiing to the terminal.

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