Airlines Want to Get You On and Off the Plane More Quickly

From boarding at both ends of the plane to penalizing customers with carry-ons, airlines are trying lots of tricks to get passengers to speed it up.


Only 73 percent of the flights of 16 airlines that report such information to the U.S. Department of Transportation arrived on time in July, according to the latest government data.

Reasons mentioned include “aviation system delays,” chain reactions from late-arriving planes, “factors within the airline’s control,” extreme weather, and security reasons.

One other possible reason not explicitly listed: slow boarding.

Stop me if this sounds familiar: You first wait in line for your zone number to be called after the VIPs get on. Once your zone number is called, you wait (freezing or melting) on the jetway to get inside the plane. Then your progress is impeded by the people in front of you removing items from their carry-ons and stowing them, putting on or removing sweaters, and generally making themselves comfy.

And then you sit in your seat a while longer before the plane begins to head to the runway, as everyone else completes those same steps. Distance covered: probably less than 100 yards. Time elapsed: half an hour or more.

Airlines are trying to speed things up, CNBC says. Here’s what they’ve done, or plan on doing:

  • “In March, United Airlines created clearly marked lanes for five different boarding groups,” and started using a “window-middle-aisle” boarding method.
  • American Airlines gives boarding preference to those without large carry-ons.
  • Southwest Airlines doesn’t assign seats. It just lines everyone up and shepherds them in.
  • Spirit Airlines charges a fee for carry-ons.
  • “In some airports in Mexico and at some smaller U.S. airports without boarding bridges, Alaska Airlines boards passengers from both the front and rear doors.” It’s testing that elsewhere.

Engineering teacher Hank Scott has devised a slide-in aisle seat that can be temporarily pushed aside to widen the aisle during boarding and help people get past the slowpokes, CNBC says. He’s trying to get the design approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, and then it could potentially be tested on planes.

Which airline do you think boards the fastest? What’s the best method? Let us know on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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