I take an upcoming flight schedule and assign every flight number a gate based on aircraft sizes, arrival/departure times and destination city. It is the same gate for each flight number until the next schedule change comes around. If all goes smooth during the day, no gate changes be made and the gate table will be used again for the next day. When we run into delays some flights will be shifted to other gates. Sometimes the conflict can be seen and fixed, sometimes it is unexpected. I do everything possible to avoid the "snowball effect." On occasion it happens and I'm just along for the ride. The flight numbers are returned to their scheduled gates every night. You will notice this if you fly a particular flight number often. Some small changes are made nightly due to the equipment types that will operate the next day.
To build the gate schedule, I check for any flights that have equipment that cannot park on certain gates for a variety of reasons: aircraft is too large/too small, fueling pit locations, ERJ adaptor locations, baggage buddies, etc. Secondly, I try to give as much time as possible before the next aircraft is due in. Flights to JFK/LGA/BOS get extra attention/ground-time as they are frequently involved in ATC flow control. Then, if possible, I will keep as many flights to one city on the same gate for the day as a courtesy to our FF base. About 90% of on-time ATL flights depart out of C15, most LGA flights depart from C7 or C9.
Hubs cities will have a computer do this for them and send alerts to "gate-keepers" before gate conflicts occur. Sometimes they also have overflow gates that a problem flight can be assigned to stop the snowball effect from happening.
The planning of how to get to your gate can begin all the way back when on approach. The controller will attempt to line you up with the runway nearest your gate, if possible. For example at RDU: CHQ flights under the CO banner will be given 5R/23L, while the DL/AA's get 5L/23R. This helps to avoid taxiway congestion. Once on the ground, the ground controller will do one of three things:
1. Request your parking info, then give you instructions (mainly for airlines that fly under multiple banners)
2. Give instructions to you based solely on your airline (smaller airports)
3. Clear you to the ramp, contact ramp control (larger airports, operations reports gate assignments to the controllers)
I know this is alot, but I hope it helps.
[Edited 2010-08-07 18:17:15]
[Edited 2010-08-07 18:25:19]
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