How are gates determined for flights?

Obviously I know size, time, domestic/international flights, and ownership are all factors. But, let’s say I am coming/leaving domestically in ATL on a Delta 757 during daytime hours. There are a ton of gates that the plane could be parked at. How is the gate assignment determined? Just curious.


I’m actually not sure but it is a very cool topic @FlyerMachine

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Gates are sized small, medium, heavy and super I’m pretty sure and then they just assign any number from that. Aswell as domestic/international


I think that the airline ‘buys’ gates and then it is up to them scheduling to give them a gate. This is how you often know your gate number before arriving at the airport. The ATC then will do their best to put the plane in that gate. If not then it will be another gate owned by the airline


That is the North American way. Airline does not own gates in other airports, but there are usual gates for different airlines for different flights.

I was in the Geneva Ground Tower Control and I can explain you.

Not all doors are the same, there’s devised by size and by origine. For example, A BA flight from London, aren’t going to park at the same position as a LH flight from München. Why ? Simply due to Shengen restrictions, LH passengers could leave the airport without any immigration control, but BA passengers have to cross the immigration check.

Now try with a EK flight from Dubai, he’s going to be parked with a Imigration check door or not ?

That is how Gatwick works I know. Not sure about North America

Surely that doesn’t make a difference because you have to walk like 5 miles to get to immigration and then there are separate queue for certain areas.

I think it depends on the airport mainly.

KDFW has three terminals all for American. Terminal B is almost used exclusively for the American Eagle regional planes while the other two are for larger ones. One terminal is suited better for international travel with customs included. It all comes down to availability and how long the plane is going to be on the ground for. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve landed and had to change gates because a plane was in our gate. Sometimes we went to another gate while others we just sat and waited.

Airlines might always use those gates, but they don’t own them outright like airlines in the US.

Yeah but LH pax arrive directly in the Luggage area, but not the BA pax

Ok that makes sense I have seen a BA and Easyjet sign at the same gate

Why? What the difference?

Because England isn’t in the shengen area, but Germany yes


Just to add on to @Flying-Switzerland’s great info:

Some flights require immigration control, some do not. Obviously all aircraft require a correctly sized gate. Therefore flight dispatchers work with the airport to decide the gate occupancy before the flight. You will often see many aircraft of the same airline parked together at some airports, and some mixed with other airlines. You will generally find the ones parked together are non-immigration gates, and ones mixed in immigration ones.

For example: LAX has 9 terminals: 1-8 and the TBIT. Most international flights use the TBIT, which will be fully immigration. T1 is purely Southwest, so immigration will be not required. T2 however has international flights, and so on.

A good example is that Virgin Australia uses T3 for departures, but the TBIT for arrivals.


Thanks @IceBlue i appreciate, I would like to give you a ❤️ But unfortunately I used them all for today ;-)

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I’m pretty sure they buy slots, I remember an article about United Airlines at EWR, trying to buy them all. Plus think about it, you can check your flight a day or two before departure and you know the gate. They buy the gates or lease it or something. And if its busy they go to a different gate. Like southwest at ATL, one time it was busy and it went to the intl terminal (same with delta), I’m pretty sure Nashville, TN is a domestic flight.

You mean lease?

Most big airlines have a section of the terminal and In that section they chose which Gate which aircraft should go in.

I use google for questions like these because you tend to get a lot of “I think” answers here. Here are some responses from a few other credible sources (Airport Planners/experienced Travelers).