Before we get into the benefits of remote stands or jet bridges, let’s first define what each one is. Jet bridges, or jetways as they are also called, are enclosed, movable connectors that extend from the terminal gate to the aircraft. Passenger boarding bridges (PBB) or jet bridges can be moved in several directions while also extending or retracting. The inside of a jet bridge typically resembles an office corridor without windows and doors, although some airports are now starting to use jet bridges with glass walls.
Before jet bridges were introduced in the late 1950s, passengers would have typically walked from the terminal to the plane and then boarded the aircraft using a set of movable stairs called “remote stands.” As air travel increased and airports got busier, planes were forced to park further away from the terminal. This meant that passengers now needed to be transported by bus to the aircraft. This form of boarding aircraft today is still in operation at many small airports and those catering to low-cost carriers.
What we like about jet bridges
First and foremost, jet bridges provide all-weather dry access to the plane and enhance airport operations’ security. Permanently attached to the terminal, the jet bridge’s end can swing left and right, and up and down. This allows the jet bridge operator to connect the airport to an aircraft’s door securely, allowing passengers direct access from the terminal to the plane or vice versa. Some large international airports even have multiple jet bridges on different levels to service planes like the double-decker Airbus A380.
The advantages of having a jet bridge
- Protection from the weather
- More secure as passengers don’t have to walk around the apron
- Faster boarding and disembarking
- Less time spent walking
- Better access for the disabled and people in wheelchairs
- Fewer delays leading to more on-time arrivals and departures
While all the above plus points sound good, jet bridges are not always the answer. With a limited number of jet bridges available, it restricts where an aircraft can park. When being attached and detached from the plane, jet bridges can cause damage if not handled correctly.
Jet bridges are not suitable for smaller regional jets and can only take one aircraft at a time. On the other hand, remote stand parking may be able to handle as many as three aircraft simultaneously.
Lastly, and maybe the most critical, Airports charge a lot of money to airlines who use their jet bridges. For this reason, low-cost carriers like Ryanair try and avoid flying to airports that require planes to use jet bridges.
The disadvantage of jet bridges
- They restrict the number of parking spots
- Only service one aircraft at a time
- Can damage aircraft if not operated correctly
- Cost airlines extra money
What we like about remote stands
Love them or hate them for the time being, at least remote stands are here to stay. While they may be terrific at large international airports, they are an expensive proposition for small airports. When flights arrive early due to favorable winds, pilots often have to wait out on the tarmac until a jet bridge becomes available, whereas there is almost always a place to remote park.
A downside to remote parking is that you often have to wait for a bus to arrive before being allowed to exit the aircraft. More often than not, at bigger airports where the bus drops you off, you have to climb a couple of flights of stairs to get inside the terminal.
Small regional jets come with their own set of stairs, so once the plane is parked, you immediately get off and walk a short distance to the terminal, which most likely is also on the ground level. Aviation geeks also favor remote stands as it gives them a great chance to take photographs of the plane they are flying in up close. Have you ever seen a world leader use a jet bridge? They all love to stand at the top of the stairs and wave to the public.
Benefits of remote stands
- Great on a warm sunny day
- Ideal for photographs
- At small airports, your luggage is waiting for you on the tarmac
- You can pretend to be a world leader
Remote stands are not always all that convenient and can add precious minutes to your journey time.
Disadvantages of remote stands
- More time needed to board and disembark the aircraft
- Often means having to be bused between the terminal and the plane
- Gate areas tend to be small and can get overcrowded
- Not fun to use when it is cold, windy, and raining
- May need to climb stairs to get inside the terminal
Which do you prefer?
Flying for me is always about the journey and, more often than not, an enjoyable experience. Given a choice, I would still prefer to walk to the plane or take a bus as it allows me to look around the airport.
What do you prefer, a jet bridge or a remote stand? Please tell us your choice and why in the comments.