You're much more likely to get into a fatal crash every time you get into a car than when you get into a plane, but that hasn't stopped us from fearing flight and distrusting every second we spend in an airline's hands.

Perhaps it's just because we've been mistreated too many times, perhaps we just like to feel in control of our own fate. We like to dream we could steer out of an inevitable crash, while we hate every judder and bump in a plane because it's a mysterious pilot we have to trust.


We took away some of the mystery of flight when we brought in an airline dispatcher to Jalopnik today. The whole discussion was wonderful, but we're going to cherry-pick our favorite three responses.


When a plane has landed, but the gate is still occupied, why can't the landed plane just go to another gate (assuming one is open)?

Phil Derner, Jr.

Airlines often have lease agreements with the airports for gate usage, so airlines usually can't use other gates. The goal also is to make sure departing flights have their gates, as their on-time performance is more pressing. Your flight's already completed technically. In the end, on-time flights saves a few bucks and keeps your fares lower.


Do airlines make decisions about which flight to cancel based on passenger load or the passenger load on the next connection?

Phil Derner, Jr.

Yes, but each airline handles that differently. A 200-seat aircraft can't make money if only 20 people are booked, so if there is another flight in a few hours, it's cheaper to cancel and combine loads. In the end, each dollar saved keeps fares lower overall.


I hear a lot of pilots have a god complex. Do you find that to be true?

Phil Derner, Jr.

Can't lie, it is! But I feel that authoritative attitude is what is necessary to command an aircraft, so I have no problem with it at all. I'd rather a Captain that's a bit of a hard-ass fly my plane than a timid person.

Photo Credit: Sara Terrones