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I'm a frequent traveller, but I just got into a peculiar situation, that I don't think I've encountered before.

For some reason, the self-check in machine at the gate did not give me a ticket with my assigned seat number. The stewardess asked me to wait untill everybody had boarded, and then pick an empty seat. No problem – and probably not relevant to the story. I picked a seat in the aisle at row 6 (so fairly in the front of the plane).

A lot of people were travelling home for holidays, so the plane was almost full, and most people had a lot of carry-on luggage. A passenger had blocked the aisle just behind me while taking out their luggage from the overhead compartment, thus leaving me an opportunity to exit my seat. As I walked up the aisle alone, the stewardess then blocked the door, and asked me to please wait a bit to let other people "catch up".

After about twenty seconds, enough people had queued up behind me, and I was finally let go.

The question is, why did she not let me disembark alone? I was not rushing out, but walking in an orderly fashion. The five rows ahead of me had already disembarked.

I thought maybe it was to keep passengers together, so groups with children was not separated. However, I was clearly a single-travelling passenger, everybody seemed calm, and I was walking up the aisle alone (story of my life, eh?).

The plane was already an hour late, and was (to my knowledge) the last to land that night. The airport did not seem busy at all, and airport personell were simply waiting for us to disembark, so they could go home.

  • I don't suspect a connection with me picking an empty seat. Those who disembarked immediately before me was indeed a group. I don't get the connection to rabbits, but I didn't spot any, and the airport seemed empty. Time was 1am, and it's not exactly a hub. – Nix Dec 23 '14 at 14:44
  • Were you able to see the door where you were stopped? Was it clear? No ground staff? – Nean Der Thal Dec 23 '14 at 14:55
  • The group didn't strike me as VIPs. It was a family, so that also rules out crew - unless they changed child labour laws recently. The air bridge seemed clear, and I did not spot any ground crew or crew exiting. – Nix Dec 23 '14 at 15:43
  • It didn't seem no one was anything other than monkey class - and it's a lowfare airline. The family was four or five people. Seemed nice, although a little loud. The stewardess let me see a list of all available seats, so I could choose. There were about 10 available seats in a 737. – Nix Dec 23 '14 at 16:15
  • Just asked my mother, who works at said airport (though not as cabin crew). She has never heard of this practice either, so it remains a mystery. – Nix Dec 23 '14 at 16:58
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The only logical explanation that comes to my head is the re-aligning of the jetway by the ground staff, they gave a signal to the stewardess once it was re-aligned. Perhaps while the first group was leaving they noticed that it was a bit high or a bit low or something else.

Other than that, it simply means some strange behavior from the stewardess as I am not aware of any rule that prohibits single persons from exiting planes alone!

  • They did not move the jetway. Her attention was focused on the cabin, not the jetway, crew or me. Maybe she spotted a potential situation in the cabin, but it seemed very calm to me. As soon as there were people queued up down the aisle, we were let out. Seemed pointless. – Nix Dec 23 '14 at 15:50
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A frequent traveller I met told me that they will often do this on smaller aircraft. The reason is, that if all the people in the front disembark, the plane will become heavy in the back, and simply tip backwards. I asked him if this happened on larger aircrafts as well, to which he responded that yes, the procedure is the same on larger aircraft.

This particular aircraft was an 737, and since it was a christmas flight, it was almost full, and everybody carried a lot of luggage.

  • 3
    This seems surprising to me. I've posted a question on Aviation.SE in hopes that an aviation expert can confirm or refute. – Nate Eldredge May 24 '15 at 15:14
  • Thanks for posting the question, Nate. Feel free to add your findings in a new answer to this question. – Nix May 24 '15 at 15:22
  • Based on the Aviation responses - I think the very short summary is "this is not correct". Only on the smallest planes, at worst. – Fattie Jun 7 '15 at 6:37
  • @JoeBlow Actually, from what I read is that "it is possible". The question differs from mine, because Nate asks "is it technically possible for a plane to tip" (which they conclude it is) and mine focuses on whether or not that was the reason for the stewardess' behaviour (it might). If you read the first answer, they mention that while the plane might not tip completelly, it wouldn't have to tip much for it to cause problems with the connected jetway. It might also be that the stewardess has worked on smaller aircrafts, and carries the procedures over to the medium-sized 737. – Nix Jun 7 '15 at 10:19
  • Hmm... While I'm not an expert on airliners, I'd find this hard to believe for a 737. All non-fighter, non-aerobatic airplanes are designed to be nose-heavy (i.e. center of gravity well forward of the center of lift and main gear.) This makes the planes stable during flight. If the wing starts to stall, the nose will naturally lower, which regains speed and recovers the low airspeed condition. It seems like it would take a lot of weight shift to actually get the CoG aft of the main gear in a 737. Maybe if there were a lot of heavy cargo in the back and the front cargo was already off. – reirab Aug 4 '15 at 18:54

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