Frontier Removes Departure Time From Boarding Passes… And That’s A Good Thing

When I first saw the headline that Frontier Airlines has removed departure times from boarding passes, I couldn’t help but think “what is the world coming to?!”

But it actually sort of makes sense. Per USA Today:

Passengers flying Frontier Airlines will notice something familiar missing from their boarding passes: the departure time.

Instead, Frontier will now list the time that “boarding begins” and the time that the boarding “door closes,” which is 10 minutes prior to a flight’s scheduled departure time.

Frontier began rolling out the new boarding pass format late last week, and the move appears to be a first among big U.S. carriers.

So what’s the explanation for the change?

As for Frontier, spokesman Jim Faulkner says the goal for the change is to keep flights on schedule.

“It’s part of our emphasis to ensure an on-time departure for our customers,” Faulkner tells Today in the Sky. “If the door closes 10 minutes before scheduled departure, customers still have time to stow their bags, get their seatbelts fastened and get settled in so that the plane can push back from the gate on time or before.”

“If we’re closing the door at the same time as the scheduled departure time, we’re already running behind,” he adds.

And I think that’s a perfectly smart move. I can’t help but feel like over the years the definition of “departure time” has shifted a bit, as airlines work to artificially improve their on-time records. Eons ago “departure time” seemed to be when the door closed, while nowadays it seems to be when they expect the plane to push back.

Most airlines have a policy whereby they close the door 10 minutes prior to departure. For the purposes of not missing your flight, departure time is hardly a useful metric if you arrive five minutes “early” but the door is already closed (which is a situation just about every frequent traveler has faced at some point).

So I give this change a thumbs up, as it’s a logical move with airlines constantly closing doors earlier and earlier. And it’s probably especially useful for the less frequent traveler.


Would you like to see boarding passes list the last opportunity to board, rather than departure time?


  1. What’s more irritating is when airlines post a ‘Gate closes’ time on the boarding pass and you turn up to find that the gate hasn’t even opened at that time, never mind closed. If the airlines were actually transparent about when they really close the gate it would help.

  2. United went to something similar quite a while ago. The boarding passes now show:

    Boarding begins
    Boarding ends
    Flight departs
    Flight arrives

  3. Strongly agree. After all, there are not too many difference among each airline. Majority of customers chose airline only based on three factors: 1) price 2)direct or non-direct (and this is for both business traveler and leisure traveler)
    In order for airlines to win the competion, they have to try their best to reduce cost. Fuel cost hedging is difficult (stupid Delta bought a oil refined factory and lost lots of money) but maximizing efficiency is easy, just like what this airline did.
    Other costs are relatively neglible.

  4. It’s a waste of time that will jut confuse people. Actually, with other airlines that do the same i just end up writing the departure time on the boarding pass manually, because that’s the useful information not when the airline hopes it might close it’s doors. Easyjet (in UK) frequently lists a boarding time when the gate is not even shown on the monitor let alone open.

  5. Two comments:

    Flying AC from CDG to YUL last year in April, the 77W Heavy was less than half full, and being seated in Premium economy just behind 2L, they closed the cabin door 40 minutes before departure time! I have never seen anything like that! I’m just happy I had priority boarding and didn’t spend extra time at the duty-free shop…

    Flying TS from FCO to YUL, I was also travelling premium and showed up to check-in counter a hair under two hours before the departure time. The agent scolded me and told me, after a useless 10 minute wait, that boarding would begin very shortly (90 minutes before departure!) and to hurry through security. Needless to say boarding did not begin 90 minutes before departure, nor 75, nor 60…

    Transparency is a great move, so long as it remains accurate.

  6. Great move. It aligns with all other methods of transportation (buses, trains, ferries, etc.). And eliminates angry customers that weren’t told that airlines have to do things differently, and show up before departure time only to be told, rather incongruously, that they’re “late”.

    All airlines should do same. BA already lists ” boarding closes” time, which is probably best, as it is both correct and useful (although it lies when it prints a fake time there).

  7. Departure time has always been measured as off block time, ie. when aircraft is pushed back and arrival time as when aircraft stops at the gate.

    I just don’t get it why airlines didn’t start printing boarding time or gate closing time to boarding passes earlier.

  8. Doesn’t matter. DL posts the time boarding begins, so you get to the gate 45 minutes early, and then starts 30 minutes out. We all – except the newbies – know this.

    Do they really think people won’t figure this out too?

  9. Yeah as Gene mentioned United has strongly moved in this direction with many boarding passes prominently featuring boarding begins and boarding ends times with less emphasis on departure time (which can be hard to find). This can be a good thing for me since I usually cut it extremely close on domestic flights…

  10. “Eons ago “departure time” seemed to be when the door closed, while nowadays it seems to be when they expect the plane to push back.”

    I was a Gate AAgent 30 years ago (is 30 years an eon ? 🙂 )
    To me, then and now, “departure time” has always been push back time. It’s only common sense that to meet that departure time the gate needs to close a few minutes early. Practically all passengers understand this and it’s even written into most (all?) airline’s CoC that you must present yourself to the gate at least 10/15 minutes before departure.

    It’s only now, with changes like Frontier’s, that some airlines seem to be redefining the definition of “departure time”. And that definition is moving away from “push back” towards “door closed” (backwards from what you state).

    This actually creates 2 departure times. The “out time” of a flight is an FAA mandated tracking event (out, off, on and in). Eons ago at AA, the out time was automatically recorded by ACARS once all doors (cabin and cargo) had been closed and the parking brakes released. This most closely relates to push back (any delay from this “out” to physical pushback is typically a traffic delay).

  11. This is another across the industry devaluation with the artificial departure time. What about closing the door and pushing back at just about the same time? When I started flying in the 90’s departure time meant departure time!

    It doesn’t take 10 or 15 minutes to fasten your seat belt or stowe your bag!

    Also it seems like a moderate handful of times you are waiting for ramp pushback crews.

    I could see closing the door 2 to 4 minutes before departure time to be able to pull back the jetway, etc.

    I think Southwest still uses pretty close to real departure time since they process standbys at t-10 minutes.

    I suppose its a good enhancement to write the boarding door close time on the boarding pass, but it reflects a huge devaluation and cooking of the books for these artificially early door close times.

    I often take east coast same day trips so these artificial departure times may affect me more than other kinds of flyers.

    I also think the Delta Shuttle respects the true meaning of departure time!

  12. Departure time means departure time. List boarding and departure time on the boarding pass, and be done with it.

  13. This morning my flight was scheduled for a 7:50am departure. I arrive at the gate at 7:36am, 4 minutes before the door was supposed to close, and found a closed door. It appears the decision was made to depart early. Even though I had an assigned seat, it was given to someone else and I was told by the gate agent, “You missed your flight. You will have to rebook.”

    It is now, 7:40am and I am passing another gate scheduled to depart for San Diego at 7:50am, door still open.

    I arrive at Customer Service at 7:41am and wait 40 minutes to speak to a representative. The representative informed me that it would cost me $75 to rebook a flight for the next day.

    I ask, “Why am I being charged for their error. Frontier closed the door early, a complete disregard for a ticketed passenger with an assigned seat?”

    I was told, “You can pay the $75 or not fly.”

    I could go on and on about the Gate Agent blatantly lying to the Customer Service agent, telling her that she gave my seat away at 7:45am. Or, that the Customer Service agent accused me of “yelling at her and slamming my hands on the counter.” Both blatant lies, as I did neither. In fact, I turned to the other passengers and collected witness contact information, as we were all in shock at the Customer Service agents behavior.

    It is so sad what they have done to this once superior airline.

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