I was flying out of LAX not too long ago when I had a 4 hour delay on the flight. When I asked the airport staff for info regarding the delay, they told me that the airplane parked at the gate wasn't the plane we were flying in and that it couldn't be moved until the pilot got there, and the pilot was currently in Arizona. This seemed strange to me as it seems like it could be towed out of the way if needed.

Additional info: I was originally supposed to be flying out of gate x (don't remember the exact number) and about 30 minutes before boarding got switched to gate y which had the airplane that couldn't be moved. I asked some of the people who were at gate y (they were switched to gate x) if they had been delayed at all, and they had already been waiting 4 hours and were given the same info as I was. The airplane was a bit bigger plane than I flew on which was a United Airlines plane with two rows of 3 seats (I think it was a 737). The plane was eventually moved (didn't seem to be towed or anything) after about 8 hours of total waiting.

Is there any reason why an airport would need to wait 8 hours for a pilot to arrive from somewhere else to move a plane, or is this just an excuse they made up?

  • 7
    This looks like a question for our sister site, Aviation. Jul 11, 2018 at 0:16
  • You seem to be saying the "stuck" airplane was United. What airline were you flying? Was it different?
    – BowlOfRed
    Jul 11, 2018 at 0:48
  • @BowlOfRed i was also flying on a United Airline flight
    – Dragonrage
    Jul 11, 2018 at 0:49
  • If you have the date and the flight numbers (yours and ideally that of the other delayed flight) one could possibly find additional information about what actually happened. But I concur with the others, they could definitely have towed the aircraft to a different location if that really was the issue. Don't forget that at most airports an aircraft is "pushed back", and at some gates at LAX they can't even get to the gate by their own means, they have to be towed in, so they have all the equipment to do that.
    – jcaron
    Jul 11, 2018 at 10:59
  • @jcaron i could probably look up the flight number in my email, where would I look up info on the flight? on the United Airlines website? or somewhere else?
    – Dragonrage
    Jul 11, 2018 at 15:06

2 Answers 2


Put simply, no, that does not make sense - or at least, not as the full story.

LAX is a major airport for United Airlines - they have around 20 gates available to them (all dedicated to United/United Express), and upwards of several dozen flight movements per hour. They also have a strong "ground" presence (ground staff, tugs, etc) as a result.

If they needed that gate for your flight, or any other flight, they would have been able to tow the plane somewhere else. Alternatively, they would have moved your flight to a different gate that either wasn't occupied, or which was due to be cleared quicker than you've described.

That said, that doesn't mean that what you were told was wrong - likely it just wasn't the full story. It's very possible that the crew that was due to fly that aircraft were in Arizona and were flying into LAX. However that, in itself, wasn't the reason you would have been delayed.

The fact that your gate was changed shortly before departure is an indication that they were shuffling planes between flights. This is common when there is disruptions - most likely they choose to use the plane that you were due to fly on for another flight, and assigned your flight a new gate.

The plane you were then assigned to was either delayed, or potentially not even due to arrive until after your scheduled departure, which is why you had to wait. At some stage before your aircraft arrived, they moved the plane that was parked at the gate.

There is no way that a four plus hour delay (and all of the flow-on delays that would cause) would be triggered just because they had nobody to move the plane - at least not for United at LAX.


Regardless of whether someone can move the aircraft, there's no way you're delayed 8 hours because one gate is occupied. If that were the only reason, they would have sent your plane to another gate and told you to board there. United has multiple gates at LAX.

I suspect that the explanation was poor or misunderstood and that the delay is because you were waiting for the pilot/flight crew of your flight to arrive. Delays because crew aren't available happen from time to time.

  • I wasn't delayed 8 hours, I was delayed 4 hours, after being moved to a gate where other people had been waiting 4 hours for a plane to be moved. (The screen at the gate showed it had been delayed 4 hours, and the reason they were told they were waiting was the same reason we were told we were waiting.
    – Dragonrage
    Jul 11, 2018 at 1:50
  • 5
    It is possible, and has happened to me, that the crew that was going to fly the OP was instead instructed to fly the delayed earlier flight, and the OP had then to wait for the next crew to show. The parked plane is a red herring and unrelated, in this scenario. Jul 11, 2018 at 4:59

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