Abstract Measurements of flooding in pulsed sieve plate columns as a function of the pulse frequency are reported, the following parameters being varied: interfacial tension of the systems used, fractional free area of the plates and phase ratio of the feed streams. These measurements are compared with curves calculated in accordance with the empirical correlations by Smoot and McAllister, and a correction is given for the McAllister equation, which is erroneous in the literature. It is found that the McAllister equation is suitable only for the parameter combination, where the interfacial tension is high and the fractional free area is small. The measurements for small and medium fractional free areas with all the systems can be well represented by the Pilhofer formulation, which is based on the fluid-dynamic description of the movement of drop swarms. For the present, however, this approach cannot be pursued in practice, since it presupposes a knowledge of the drop size. Therefore, a new empirical correlation is given, which was developed from the measurements and by means of which the maximum of the flooding curve can be calculated.