What Is a Puddle Jumper?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Puddle jumpers are small planes that are often used for flight connections involving small airports located within a reasonable distance from a larger airport that serves as a hub for a given airline. Small passenger planes of this type are ideal when there is not enough demand for larger flights to and from the outlying area. A typical small plane is likely to seat anywhere from six to twenty passengers.

Puddle jumpers such as the Norman-Britten Trislander are typically small aircraft used to carry passengers to and from small airports.
Puddle jumpers such as the Norman-Britten Trislander are typically small aircraft used to carry passengers to and from small airports.

While there are puddle jumper airlines that offer limited routes to nearby localities, the most common use of this type of plane is to shuttle passengers to and from a larger airport. The shuttle planes usually run connecting flights to and from the smaller airport to a large air terminal used by the airline as a hub location. From this hub, passengers are able to board a connecting flight that will take them to another major airport as the next leg of their journey.

Headphones may be provided for travelers on board a puddle jumper.
Headphones may be provided for travelers on board a puddle jumper.

While puddle jumper planes are perfectly safe, the passenger experience is very different from traveling in a large airliner. The smallest of these types of planes have no barrier between the pilot and the passengers, a fact that some people find unnerving. The smaller plane also tends to provide a rougher journey, as the impact with air pockets or inclement weather have more of an effect on the shuttle plane than they do on the larger liners. This means passengers tend to be jostled around more than on larger planes.

The smaller cabin size of a puddle jumper airplane also means there is less room for carry-on luggage, since the overhead compartments are usually no more than two thirds the size of compartments found on larger planes. With some designs, overhead storage is not included at all, meaning the passenger is left to stow his or her shoulder bag and coat under the seat.

Seating is also more cramped in these planes. Along with slightly smaller seats, leg room is often at a premium, even near emergency exits. For individuals who are somewhat taller than average height, spending more than an hour on one of these shuttle flights can be extremely uncomfortable. The small cabin size sometimes leads big and tall travelers to forego the connecting flight to an outlying city, choosing to either take a train, bus or rent a car in order to complete the last leg of the journey.

Since the puddle jumper is normally used for flights that take no more than an hour to complete, relatively few amenities are provided. If there is time, passengers may be offered a beverage, but it is highly unusual for any type of food to be included in short flights. In-flight music may be provided along with headphones, although this is not always the case. Few of these flights have the space to provide any type of visual entertainment such as a movie or even an episode of a television show.

A puddle jumper may only seat up to 20 passengers.
A puddle jumper may only seat up to 20 passengers.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I was born in Alaska before it became a state, and I lived there until late 1991.

In Alaska, a "puddle jumper" is a seaplane that takes off and lands on water, salt or fresh water. Although there were a few that took off from airport runway, and they had retractable wheels. There were some Grumman Gooses and PBY's.

Oh man, I miss seeing the PBY's take off and land, on water or land. Some think that the 57 Chevy is the most beautiful automobile in the world. Well, I think the PBY is the most beautiful airplane in the world.

Thank you for this article, it brought back some fond memories.


@Buster29- I'm sorry you had some bad experiences on puddle jumpers. I've had some rough flights on smaller regional planes, but most of the time I have gotten to my destination in one piece. I actually feel safer in a smaller commuter plane that in those huge Airbus 320s my company usually books. When I need to go from somewhere like Memphis to catch a flight in Nashville, it seems like the plane is just getting off the ground before it starts landing again. I don't need too many amenities for a flight like that.


I travel a lot by air on company business, and I routinely ask my secretary not to book any trips involving puddle jumpers, if at all possible. I will gladly overfly my destination if it means getting on a regular connecting flight from a large airport. I've had a few really negative experiences involving puddle jumper flights, and I don't care to repeat them in the future. I've been known to take a bus from the airport or rent a car and drive to the next major airport myself.

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