Airlines Go Back to Boarding School

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By: John Gobbels
MedjetAssist VP/COO

Boarding an airplane can be a bit like herding cattle.Passengers jockey to get better positions in line while the passengers on-board stuff suitcases that would never pass the pre-board sizing container into bulging overhead bins.

So American Airlines completed a two-year study on how to decompress this situation with some interesting results. The first strategy is randomized boarding – Travelers without elite status get assigned randomly to boarding groups instead of filing onto planes from back to front. If you want to avoid that and board early there is a fee for that, of course.

Nonetheless, the new system can shave three to four minutes off the average boarding time of 20-25 minutes.
American’s study also showed that a major factor in delay was baggage. Seems more bags are being carried into the aircraft rather than checked (go figure) to avoid the fees. The study also showed that back to front slowed the process because only two people on average got to their seats at a time while everyone else stands and waits while filling up the forward cabin overhead bins with their luggage in an attempt not to get skunked when they finally reach their seating area. American ran simulations and found that boarding passengers in window seats first, followed by middle and then aisle was fastest. Seems both Delta and United already employ this seating scheme.

The most interesting boarding scheme that I always assumed was the slowest is actually the fastest. General Boarding! It seems multiple passengers got to their seats at the same time. Bins filled up more evenly in tests because people stowed bags where they were sitting not at the front of the plane. The process also proved calmer when tested in real flights. Who knew?
Unfortunately it seems that the only true way to get the seat you want is to pay for it!

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Reference – The Wall Street Journal – Thursday July 21, 2011