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I was on a flight recently where my flight was schedule for 5:50PM, but when I got to the gate, the time had changed to 5:45PM and eventually 5:40PM. While it didn't make much difference for me since I was there early, that 10 minutes could be someone making and missing their flight.

Are airlines allowed to make flights leave sooner? If someone misses their flight because of this, do they have to be compensated by the airline?

  • This has happened to me as well. One of the flights I booked from CHI to IST was originally scheduled to leave at 9:50 p.m, later they changed it to 9:15 p.m. I certainly can see some people booking connecting flights which could get real tight with a change like this. – edocetirwi Aug 26 '15 at 21:03
  • Generally speaking: yes, but if you miss the flight they have to compensate – Him Aug 26 '15 at 21:04
  • @Him What do you mean by generally speaking? Can you elaborate more in an answer? – BDD Aug 26 '15 at 21:06
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    You are sure there was no notification by either email or SMS? – Nean Der Thal Aug 26 '15 at 21:13
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    They can change it however they like. Changes of 10 minutes they don't even have to tell you about since most airlines already require you to be at the gate 15-30 minutes before departure. If someone could miss their flight because it left 10 minutes earlier then they were too late to board in the first place. – FML Aug 27 '15 at 11:45
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Airlines will bump up a departure time if they feel they can get the plane out earlier. It helps their on-time performance stats and gets everyone to their destination a little earlier.

But this is done only when they are certain everyone will be onboard earlier. The decision would likely be based on 1) all originating passengers have checked in XX minutes before the flight 2) all flights with connecting passengers have arrived at the airport XX minutes before the flight 3) the aircraft is at the gate cleaned and fueled before the new boarding time commences.

In addition the airline needs to get clearance from Air Traffic Control for an earlier pushback, departure and arrival slot.

So it is not something they do on a whim and wouldn't be done if there was risk of leaving passengers behind.

  • +1. This happened to me once. Everyone were past the gate and we're just waiting (it was 2-3AM). It was rather a pleasant thing to depart earlier and save a few minutes. – Ayesh K Aug 27 '15 at 5:52
  • and of course it may be something originating from the airport rather than the airline, needing the gate early, for example because a large aircraft is inbound to arrive early and they don't have capacity to ferry everyone and all the luggage to the terminal from a remote stand. – jwenting Aug 27 '15 at 7:07
  • @jwenting - Having sat on the tarmac on several occasions after arriving early waiting for the gate to open up, I don't think that is a motivator. – user13044 Aug 27 '15 at 7:39
  • @Tom it's a possible motivator, maybe not a common one. No doubt if there's an A380 coming in and they'd need 50 busses several miles from the terminal to shuttle everyone it's more likely to happen than when it's a 737-500 needing 2 busses a few hundred meters away. – jwenting Aug 27 '15 at 7:46
  • @jwenting An A380 parked at a far apron would require maybe 8 to 10 buses max, running in rotation, as only two buses can be loaded at a time from two mobile stairs. But the airport forcing a plane to leave early before all passengers are loaded would likely lead to legal action by the airline to cover compensation it had to provide to passengers who missed their flight, so not a likely scenario. – user13044 Aug 28 '15 at 1:39

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