Even when you hear the captain welcome you to your destination at the end of a flight, your time aboard the airplane is likely not over. Not even close.
The time between a plane’s wheels landing and passengers actually walking off the aircraft is potentially one of the most frustrating parts of flying — especially for travelers with tight connections. It’s also one of the most misunderstood.
The procedure was even the subject of a “Funny or Die” sketch.
Flight attendants are not coaxing the doors open with a good cop/bad cop routine. There’s an orchestra of people working on both sides of the cabin door to get everybody off the plane and into the airport terminal.
Once the plane pulls up to its gate (which in itself can take a while), the captain powers down the engine. He then turns off the plane’s anti-collision light, a red blinking light outside the aircraft, which alerts grounds crew that it’s safe to approach.
In the cabin, passengers are likely already standing, stretching, and reaching over each other to get baggage out of overhead bins. Anyone who has stood and waited to get out of their row and into the aisle, head tilted sideways with their face against the air vent, knows this is the point where it already feels like they should be off the plane.
Meanwhile, on the ground, airport crew bring out the jet bridge and align it with the aircraft door. Once the jet bridge is in place, the ground crew will either open the aircraft door or signal to cabin crew that it’s safe to open the door and evacuate.
However, there’s a lot that can happen and delay the process for everyone. There could be issues with the mechanics of the jetway, or it could take a few times to line up properly with the aircraft door. Multiple aircraft could arrive at the airport at the same time and the ground crew cannot accommodate them all at the same time. Or, sometimes, simple human error — like the gate agent not realizing that the plane has landed — can add time to the process.
Regardless, nobody is negotiating with the aircraft door.