Worst Thing about Flying: Boarding the Plane

Everyone seems to bemoan the lack of roomy airline seats and few passengers voluntarily sit near screaming babies, but a lot of people say the worst part of flying is outside the cabin – the boarding process. The good news is, the airlines keep working on it.

Which seatmates are worse than screaming kids?

Why Boarding is So Bad

In fact, experts have been studying the problem of how to board a plane quickly for years now, because like most things – when it comes to boarding, time is money. As one media report noted, "every minute cut from the boarding process can save $30 per flight" and those flights add up.

The problem is getting say, 150 people through one narrow doorway and into rows and rows of seats in a timely fashion – a process that's been exacerbated in recent years due to an increase in carry-on bags which must be stowed (and you can blame bag fees for that).

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The Two-Door Approach

A number of airlines have tried speeding things along by dropping families first boarding but other things are being tried, too, including Alaska Airlines' new two-door approach. You've seen this at smaller airports without jetways (like Southern California's Burbank) only now Alaska is trying this at its Seattle hub. According to Wired, the carrier uses a wheeled, solar-powered ramp that's moved to the backdoor of the airplane "and passengers make two switch-back turns down the ramp to the ground, providing an alternative to stairs for easy suitcase rolling and wheelchair access."

Other Boarding Solutions

American experimented this spring by allowing passengers without carry-on bags to board ahead of those who did have bags. We've also seen:

  • Fee-based early boarding: Pay a little to get moved up
  • Robotic boarding: Self-service boarding pass scanning
  • Scientific boarding: An astrophysicist declared the fastest method of getting a lot of people on a plane quickly is random boarding

What Passengers Can Do for Faster Boarding

Some suggestions:

Fly a lot: If you earn enough miles in your airline program, you receive all kinds of perks which can include early boarding

Pay a little: Many airlines offer cut in line boarding options for a relatively small fee

Pay a lot: American Airlines offers a Five Star Service program ($125 – $275) which offers all kinds of one-on-one attention including an escort to your gate and what's called "pre-boarding assistance"

Anne McDermott
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