Answering readers’ questions: Stay on or get off?

big planeA recent email from a reader said:

I am on a flight headed to Chicago. We just found out the plane is delayed for 45 minutes. The flight attendants said we could get off the plane as long as we take all our stuff with us. What would you do?

Great question! For frequent travelers, this kind of thing seems like no big deal, but for inexperienced fliers I see how it could be vexing. My answer depends on several factors. Since this will be a relatively short flight, if you don’t need anything to eat or to use the loo, then I would sit tight. If you are hungry or need something, go do it quickly, then get back to the gate.

You don’t want to stray too far or be gone too long in case they get the issue wrapped up more quickly than expected. If you were on a longer flight, I would recommend to get off and stand in the gate area as long as possible.

However, if you do get off the plane make sure you take your belongings with you. A few years ago I was in a similar situation–a mechanical issue, 45 minute delay. I figured I was just going across the hall to grab some food, so no reason to take my suitcase with me. Well, that 45 minutes turned into two hours and I ended up being put on a different flight. I had to confess to the gate agent that I was “that passenger” who knew better than everyone and didn’t follow directions. Embarrassing, yes! But it could have been really bad if the plane had quickly taken off and my suitcase had flown off with it.

Readers, what do you do in situations like this? Do you usually stay on or get off the plane?

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Comments

  1. Strange question. I can’t see how something so simple could be “vexing.” Do you want to sit on a plane for 45 minutes or would you rather sit at the gate? The only reason I can think of to stay on the plane is if you are afraid of losing overhead space. I’d much rather have the ability to walk around at the gate than be cooped up on the plane. Unless of course I were flying business or first class on a longhaul flight. Then I would definitely stay on the plane.

  2. @Jared I don’t think it’s a strange question at all! As I mentioned in the post, sometimes things that are easy for experienced travelers (as you and I are) are more confusing for newer or less frequent travelers. Getting questions like this helps me remember that not everyone flies all the time, and to be a little more patient. We were inexperienced once too!

  3. I NEVER get off the aircraft esp. if I’m heading home. I’m a former FA, and I’ve seen way too many issues get fixed in 5 minutes that were expected to take 45. They WILL leave you in a heartbeat. I feel safe sleeping on the aircraft, not at all safe at the gate.

  4. It also delays departure when everyone gets off. One time I was on an ORD-JFK that had a ground stop due to weather. The crew was close to timing out, so we were all crossing our fingers that we’d take off in time. A lot of people got off the plane – some just to hang out in the gate and some permanently – and we were all specifically told not to move seats. Afterward, when people reboarded, many ignored the instructions and took new seats, which resulted in a huge mess trying to figure out who was on the plane and who wasn’t (I think they were +/- one person.) It took a while to sort out, and the pilots literally timed out when we were at the end of the runway and had just been cleared for takeoff. LITERALLY 60 seconds would have made the difference! So we were all stuck at the airport as a result 🙁

    Lesson: don’t get off the plane unless you absolutely HAVE to. I wish we had just left everyone at the gate behind.

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