How your gate number is selected
There are many factors involved in deciding where your plane will be parked once it touches down at Schiphol. If you’ve ever wondered who chooses the gate where your plane is parked, that job belongs to a gate planner. Gate planners watch the skies 24 hours a day from the Air Traffic Control Tower and ensure that every aircraft is designated a spot at Schiphol.
It’s a puzzle
There are many gates that the gate planners can select. Schiphol has eight piers – B, C, D, E, F, G, and H/M. We refer to the corridors next to the place where the aircraft ‘park’ as piers. From the piers, passengers take the bridge to the planes. There are also platforms where planes can park while passengers are carried to and from the plane by bus. You can find out about Pier A here!
The gate planner’s first decision about where to park your plane is based on the flight’s point of origin, and its onward destination. Piers B, C, M, and a large section of D, are used for flight services with destinations in the Schengen zone. The Schengen zone includes places you can travel to without having to go through the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee border control checks, such as Barcelona. Part of Pier D and Piers E, F, G and H are used for other destinations, such as New York. Pier D has a smart layout that makes it multifunctional – you can get on and off aircraft on two different levels, so Schengen and non-Schengen passengers remain in their own sections.
Another factor that affects the planning process is the duration of the aircraft’s stay at Schiphol. If the next group of passengers gets on the plane shortly after the previous flight has disembarked, the aircraft will remain at the gate. If there’s a gap of a few hours, the passengers will disembark at the gate and the plane will spend some time in a ‘parking space’ before heading to the gate where the next group of passengers are waiting to board.
Does this gate come in another size?
Our gate planners have to account for the length and wingspan of the aircraft. A Boeing 747 has very different measurements from a Boeing 737. Some gates can accommodate all types of aircraft, while other gates are specially designed for ‘narrow body’ aeroplanes, which are aircraft with a single aisle. The A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, is so big that it can only be accommodated at three gates: G9, E18 and E24.
Airlines also have the opportunity to share their preferences. Once the above criteria have been satisfied, the gate planners do their best to account for the airline’s preference. For example, it can be beneficial for an airline if the aircraft are situated close together, to make life easier for connecting passengers.
Of course, planes can arrive early or have a delayed departure, which means that the gate will be occupied for longer than expected. The gate planners are aware of this and update their plans straight away with the announcement ‘Your attention for a gate change please’.