What is a Jet Bridge?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Jet bridges allow passengers on planes to exit aircraft directly into airports.
Jet bridges allow passengers on planes to exit aircraft directly into airports.

A jet bridge, loading bridge, or aerobridge is a piece of equipment which is designed to allow passengers to board and deplane directly through an airport terminal, without needing to go outside or climb stairs. Jet bridges are becoming the standard at airports around the world, as they are more comfortable for passengers and crew to use. In smaller airports, it is still possible to see so-called “airstairs,” mobile staircases which are wheeled up to aircraft, allowing people to disembark directly onto the tarmac at the airport.

In the U.S., the Jetway brand of jet bridges is so common that many call all jet bridges Jetways.
In the U.S., the Jetway brand of jet bridges is so common that many call all jet bridges Jetways.

One popular brand of jet bridge is the Jetway®, and this brand is in fact so ubiquitous that the term “jetway” is sometimes used generically, especially in the United States, to refer to any kind of jet bridge. Like other technology, jet bridges are periodically updated, and airlines and airports can spend a great deal of money keeping their jet bridges up to standard.

A jet bridge consists of a long arm which attaches to the gate in the airline terminal. The arm can often be rotated to provide several different options, and the end of the arm is attached to an accordion-folding canopy which can be brought snugly up against the body of the plane. Passengers use the jet bridge by traveling along a corridor inside the arm before passing under the canopy and into the aircraft. A platform below the canopy is designed to rest snugly against the body of the aircraft so that there are no gaps between the jet bridge and the plane.

Operation of the jet bridge is performed with a control panel which is used to position the equipment and lock it into place. Getting a jet bridge into place is a relatively rapid process at most airports, although passengers eager to deplane may think it takes forever. Some jet bridges also have an additional extendable arm which can be used to allow boarding and deplaning through two doors in the aircraft for additional speed.

One convenience of the jet bridge is that it accommodates passengers in wheelchairs or passengers using strollers very easily. Typically, a flight attendant at the opening of the plane will accept wheelchairs and strollers for gate checking. Items which are gate checked will be brought out first when the plane lands so that passengers can access them immediately. Gate checking is also available when flights are crowded and the flight crew want to encourage people to check luggage rather than carrying it onto the aircraft.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

live2shop

I don't know how the idea of gate checking got started. It is really a great idea. People with wheelchairs or some other large pieces of medical equipment, and strollers need those items right after they get off the plane. It's great that they are checked upon entering the plane and then taken off first and are waiting there right on the jet bridge.

I've seen some suitcases that are in with the strollers and wheelchairs on the jet bridge. Anyone know why these were checked at the gate and not like other suitcases?

BabaB

In the days when propeller airplanes and early jetliners were in service, we always had to go outside, walk to the plane and wait in line to climb stairs to get one the plane.

If it was a nice day, it wasn't bad. But on windy, rainy or cold days, it was miserable out their with the cold wind whipping your hair all around. And in those days, you were supposed to dress up and look nice and neat when you went on a plane.

Today, it's so nice to have a jet bridge to get on and off an airplane. I wonder why it took so long for the airline folks to think up the jet bridge idea.

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    • Jet bridges allow passengers on planes to exit aircraft directly into airports.
      Jet bridges allow passengers on planes to exit aircraft directly into airports.
    • In the U.S., the Jetway brand of jet bridges is so common that many call all jet bridges Jetways.
      In the U.S., the Jetway brand of jet bridges is so common that many call all jet bridges Jetways.