Passengers On One American Airlines Flight Did The Impossible, Staying In Their Seats When Plane Landed

When the plane lands most people stand up and many people rush into the aisle. If you need to get a bag from an overhead bin that got stuck several rows behind you, you’d better hurry up because the aisle will quickly become impassable.

Often, a flight is delayed. And there are connecting passengers. Those passengers may have to run to make those connections. A flight attendant may make an announcement, asking everyone that doesn’t have a connection to remain seated so that those with a tight connection can get up, into the aisle, and towards the front of the aircraft – giving them precious minutes to make their next flight.

It almost never happens that passengers listen. Nobody knows who has a connection and who doesn’t. If asked, people lie. But most aren’t asked. Once everyone is up in the aisle, everyone else gets up too.

That’s why it was so striking to see an American Airlines flight where everyone without a connection remained seated so that those who had to run to make their next flights could get off the aircraft as quickly as possible.

This happened even though the flight appears to have arrived one minute early. Wazza wazza wha?

American Airlines-to-American Airlines domestic inline connections in Phoenix can be booked with as little as 25 minutes between the scheduled arrival of one flight and scheduled departure of the next. The airline can give away seats of passengers not in the boarding area for their next flight 15 minutes prior to departure, and doors close for an on-time flight 10 minutes before departure.

That means passengers have just 10 minutes from the time their inbound flight blocks in to the time they have to be at the gate for their next flight – even when they have to change concourses, for instance arriving at the high A gates in terminal 4 and connecting to a flight in the mid-B’s.

Some people rush off of the plane even when they’re not connecting and they’ll have to wait for checked luggage anyway, even when they’re asked not to. One man treats it as a race, sprinting from the back of the plane to the front before everyone else even gets up. Another one schemes by hiding in the lavatory in order to be first off the aircraft.

But “don’t cut in line” really only doesn’t apply when you’re trying to make a connecting flight. Here everyone was polite and maintained standards of civility – something all too rare in modern air travel!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have seen this work well and not at all, both times on United flights.

    It didn’t work on a flight between Seattle and Washington, DC. The was an announcement with a soft suggestion that you let people making tight connections off the plane first. There was almost zero compliance. I remember weaving in and out of people moving languidly up the jetway like they didn’t have a care in the world.

    The second time, the announcement was much more pointed and they also asked people making connections to identify themselves. Other passengers seemed to get it and hold off for those who needed to deplane quickly.

    It might have helped that the flights were several years apart and more people are realizing that the airlines are allowing for ludicrously short connecting times.

  2. Same thing happened on an Alaska flight from SEA to SFO. My partner had to connect from terminal 2 to 3 to catch a United flight to SBA, about a 10 minute walk. The Alaska flight was 2 hours delayed due to weather, and arrived 16 minutes before the scheduled departure time of the second leg. She barely made it! But never would have if everyone hadn’t stayed seated for those making connections. Sometimes people manage to be thoughtful and considerate.

  3. My first reaction to the headline was, “Wait, what? Is it April Fools’ Day already?”
    Thanks for a bit of encouraging news. Well done, passengers of Flight 486!

  4. I have, believe it or not, seen this on American a number of times recently at CLT. Usually it’s in the evening when AA has more flights scheduled than gates and still insists on selling 29-32 minute connections. And of course you’re already late, land, and your gate is occupied for another 10-15 minutes. Maybe it’s because those of us who live in CLT are thankful that when we finish walking a mile to the shuttle pick-up or our car we are going home, and know about the sprint through the airport everyone with connections is about to undertake?

    I have seen one occasion (coming from Key West, delayed of course) where people did stay seated, and those who got up weren’t moving fast enough so one guy used his carry-on as a battering ram, hugging it to his chest like a riot shield and yelling at people to get out of the way. I felt bad for the kid next to me who had no hope of making his connection so I took him into the Admirals Club and got him helped.

  5. What if the passenger in the window seat has a connection but the ones in the middle and aisle seats don’t?

  6. I hate when they make that announcement. Yeah I’m sure all 180 people on this plane at 6:00 AM on a Saturday were actually just flying up to DFW from Austin, and only 3 people are connecting. In places like DFW, PHX, IAH, DTW, and especially CLT and ATL… nobody’s going there. Everyone’s connecting. Why is that a shock to so many passengers.

    Somebody rushes off only to get lost looking for the SkyTrain to take them from A8 to A22.

  7. I get up when we arrive at the gate because I have multiple permanent injuries to my shoulders, hips, and one calf – I usually just need to stand up at that point. But if the flight crew announce people need to be let off? I keep my butt in the seat. If someone tells me they need to get off to make a connection, I will sit back down. We’ve all been there, it’s the polite thing to do.

    If airline seats weren’t so purgatorial in their comfort levels, I think more people would stay seated.

  8. It’s a stupid announcement since it only has any impact if all or most of the connecting passengers have aisle seats.

  9. I have heard the excuse “My dad is waiting for me outside” too bad

    What the airline needs to do is put the connecting PAX up front and the non connecting PAX to the back WITHOUT A CHARGE.

    We were on a Finland to LHR flight and had a 45 min connection. Do you know how long it takes to get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 and through customs. 2 of 4 bags were still at LHR

  10. Build your own connections, relax, chill, chat with the crew on the way out, be civil, maybe meet someone you can actually thank, have a drink in the club, enjoy being a courteous human. My days of running for the next flight are long past…it’s not worth the anxiety.

  11. So the monkeys on this flight happened to write a Shakespearian novel? A whole plane liad simultaneously decided to have basic courtesy? It does sort of seem newsworthy. Seating should be based on connection needs, and basic intelligent use of the limited resource available. Entitled assholes who rush to be first should be publicly scourged and whipped by airline staff, and branded with a bold “ASSHOLE” on their foreheads. That way the folks on the next flight will know how special they are and make sure to let them go first.

  12. I miscalculated transfer time at CDG and bought a window in the back for the first segment of MXP-CDG-BOS on AF. So I asked the MXP gate agent if he could tell me arr/dep gates at CDG. He didn’t even bother… He just moved me to an aisle at the front of the plane to “give you a fighting chance”. The extra minutes mattered as the door to BOS hit me on the ass. Cynical me wonders if the agent could have done that were there a seat price differential.

  13. Could it be that the airlines make their own problem? Booking people with connections 37 gates away and 15 minutes to get there. Airlines need to own a BIG part of this.

  14. In my experience, this is more the norm than the exception on Air Canada. On AA and UA pretty much the opposite. I do think the intensity and explicitness (e.g. raising hands) of the FA’s announcement helps a lot. FWIW, nowadays I won’t book less than a 90 minute connection except under duress.

  15. After we moved to Hawaii and started flying Hawaiian Airlines inter-island, I was amazed at the politeness of locals in staying seated until it was time for their row to deplane. Obvious when tourists aboard, particularly those wearing baseball caps, since they’d be the ones jumping up and running to the front.

  16. As a PHX hub resident and also fly AA a lot, this is more common then not. I only saw the “rush” to the front during the pandemic. AA does a good job of calling out if there are tight connections and most people sit to let others off, especially in PHX.

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