Before discussing how hardstand parking can benefit airports and airlines, let’s first explain what hardstand parking is. Hardstand parking is the word used for a paved surface where aircraft often have to sit parked between flights.
Rather than boarding or getting off the aircraft via a jetbridge, passengers must either walk to or from the aircraft or be transported by shuttle bus to and from the terminal. Depending upon the type and size of the plane, the airport will provide mobile stair trucks or ramps for the passengers to use to get in or out of the aircraft. Most smaller airliners have their own foldaway stairs, which makes the process quicker as there is no need to wait for the mobile stairs to arrive.
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Hardstand parking areas use heavy-duty concrete
Thicker and more durable than car parking lots, the material used at airports where planes hardstand park is usually made of heavy-duty concrete pavers capable of handling the aircraft’s weight for prolonged periods.
Now that we have defined what hardstand parking at airports means let’s see how hardstand parking can benefit airports and airlines. Taking the airports first, many smaller airports do not have jetbridges and rely on passengers walking to and from the plane or being transferred to the aircraft using a shuttle bus. An example of airports where passengers walk to and from the aircraft to the terminal are:
- Nome Airport (OME) in Alaska
- Kona International Airport (KOA) in Hawaii
- Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) in California
- Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) in the UK
- East Midlands Airport (EMA) in the UK
Many airports outside the USA do not have jetbridges
Walking to and from the terminal to the plane is routine at many of the world’s airports, especially those in developing countries. While most large airports have jetbridges, they are limited and not always available to handle passenger arrivals and departures at busy times.
To compensate for lack of jetbridges, aircraft must hardstand park away from the terminal. Passengers are then transported to and from the plane by a shuttle bus, with ride times sometimes taking as long as 15 minutes. Even Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) in Utah had to use buses while new construction was taking place. Airports where it is common to be transported to and from the plane by shuttle bus are:
- Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS)
- Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL)
- Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
- Paris Orly Airport (ORY)
- London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
- Stuttgart Airport (STR)
- Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
Low-cost airlines prefer to hardstand park
Many European low-cost carriers like Ryanair, easyJet, Jet2, and Tui prefer not to use jetbridges because they come at a cost. Irish budget airline Ryanair threatened to stop flying to Alicante in Spain when the new terminal opened in 2011. At the time, the airport’s operator, AENA, demanded that Ryanair use the new terminal’s jetbridges. Ryanair refused, saying it would cost the airline two million Euros unnecessarily.
The no-frills Irish airline prides itself on its fast turnarounds, sometimes done in less than 30 minutes. According to the aviation data and statistics website, ch-aviation Ryanair currently operates a fleet of nearly all Boeing 737 aircraft. The exception is the 29 Airbus A320s it inherited after taking over Austrian carrier Lauda.
One of the beauties of the Boeing 737 is its foldaway forward and rear stairs. These allow Ryanair to deplane its passengers without waiting for the airport mobile stairs to arrive, saving Ryanair many minutes of turnaround time. Another advantage of hardstand parking is that aircraft do not need to be pushed back from the gate with a tug and can depart under their own power.
As an aviation geek, I prefer to be able to walk to the aircraft as it gives me a chance to look at the plane up close. I also like getting to and from the aircraft by bus as it allows me to check out other planes and airlines I am unfamiliar with. How about you? Please tell us what you prefer in the comments.