Waiting on the Runway?

Hello IFC,

Just landed at KSFO from KSLC.

We landed on Runway 28R really really early. Like 30 minutes early.

Because of that, our gate is not available yet since there is another airplane that is currently parking there.

You know how when you land early and your gate is not available yet you sit and wait on a taxiway?

INSTEAD, we say on a RUNWAY!!!

Yes, we sat on Runway 1L at KSFO waiting for our gate. It was btw inactive since i see small planes like Skywest and Southwest taking off from Runway 28L.

I have never seen something like this. The runway was inactive but still, waiting on a runway?

After waiting on 1L was done, we then taxied off from 1L and I saw an AA A320 behind our plane.

Why does ATC put airplanes on the runway instead of a taxiway when waiting for our gate?

When assigned gates for incoming flights are implemented in IF and there is another airplane in that gate, would IFATC make us wait on an inactive runway or on a taxiway?


As long as the runway isn’t being used guess you can use it to hang out at!


But this is something I haven’t seen before because I thought that Runways always have to be vacant unless a plane is taking off or landing.

Not sitting around doing nothing.

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Nope. Airports will utilise these like taxiways if they aren’t being used and are needed.


Yea they do that a lot here in Dublin, runway 28 and 10 is the main runway in use here at Dublin yet they get aircraft to hold short of runway 28 on runway 16. This means they can have a steady flow from E1 and runway 16, so its a constant flow and something is always moving.


But at KSFO, there are 2 “layers” of taxiways before Runway 1L.

There is the taxiway after exiting the terminal area.

Then there is the outer taxiway right next to 1L.

I was on an Alaska Flight 2 weeks ago and we landed at KSFO and sat on the outer taxiway.

What makes today having us having to sit on the runway?

Just really depends on the controller he may just keep those taxiways clean to use for other planes. 1L & 1R have been out for a while actually not surprised they have airplanes sit there

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Maybe it was just busier? They’re just using their resources.

Exactly. I’ve never seen a plane hold on it, but runway 29/11 at KSDF is used as a taxiway most of the time when runways 17/35 r/l are being used.


I’d assume this is most probably because SFO was quite busy with traffic (both outbound and inbound) and they did not want to block a taxiway for potentially 30 minutes before the gate would free up. Since the runway was inactive, it wouldn’t block any traffic, therefore a perfect place to wait for your gate.

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It’s inactive so it’s pretty much a big taxiway haha

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This happened to me as well. I was on a Virgin America flight which departed KLAS late due to mechanical issues and when we arrived at KSFO, we were stopped on the runway due to another plane at our gate. The crew members advised us to keep our seatbelts on since we were on an active runway.

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Many airports utilize inactive runways as taxiways or a place for aircraft to sit while waiting. JFK is another prominent example where they make extensive use of their runways as glorified parking spots.

Gatwick is the busiest single runway airport in England, if not the whole world. The shorter runway is never used as such. They even have taxiway centerline lights all the way down the runway. Airports with a similar layout to Bola also use the inner runway as a glorified taxiway and not as a runway. Bahrain and many other airports around the region have a similar layout.


I just flew out of San Francisco the other day, heading home to Cleveland. Runway 1L, usually for takeoffs of small jets, was inactive. I’m thinking some kind of maintenance was being done.

I have used runways throughout my career to hold and taxi aircraft on. You’re out of the way from other inbound and outbound taxiing aircraft and I don’t have to worry about figuring out how to move you around to keep you out of the way.

Completely normal operation.


Last year, I was on an Emirates A380 and having landed at JFK from Dubai, we were waiting for a delayed Etihad aircraft to vacate the gate. JFK was using Runways 22L for arrivals and 22R for departures. So, once we landed on 22L, we vacated onto 31L and sat there for a good 15 minutes. This is a perfect example of utilizing a runway as a taxiway/holding spot, just as you experienced @BigBert10


Well at least you weren’t stuck on the runway for 19 mins

It might be because it was busy and the taxiways were better utilized for taxiing airplanes and so if you’re on the runway and not disturbing anyone it’s better than clogging some taxiways.

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