You may strongly disagree with an air company on what to call food, how hot it should be in the cabin, or how much space a grown person needs for a 3-hour flight. But there’s one thing that both you and the airline probably agree on: boarding the plane takes WAY too long.
In fact, nowadays, people are boarding planes for the longest time in history! Boeing did some research on the topic, and it turns out that in the 1970s, boarding time was only 15 minutes. These days, though, it takes about 30-40 minutes for everyone to get to their seat.
And why is that?… Well, people today are trying to save money, so they take as many carry-ons as they can rather than pay for checked luggage. I mean, how many times have you stood there and waited for someone as they try to cram a bag that’s way too big for the small overhead bin? Ugh, if I had a nickel! While it might just be an inconvenient waste of time for you, it’s a serious waste of money for the airline.
Every extra moment the plane spends on the tarmac costs a small fortune ($1,000 a minute to be exact!). So it’s no wonder airlines keep testing new ways of funneling the hordes of passengers and their oversized or overabundant bags into the plane.
Today, most air companies use the back-to-front method of passenger boarding. This way isn’t just the most popular, it’s also the least efficient! In theory, it should work just fine: passengers take their seats by zones starting from the back of the cabin and moving toward the front of the plane. It makes sense since those whose seats are in the back won’t get in the way of the passengers seated in the front, right? Uh, nope!
This method only leads to frustrating bottlenecks that occur in the aisles when all passengers at once try to push their carry-ons into the same overhead lockers. As a result, the line backs up in the aisle, on the jet bridge, and even near the gate. Everyone gets frustrated, tired, and grumpy, end of story. So how on Earth did they do it in the ‘70s? It all comes down to the baggage fees we have these days.
Since few people are willing to part with their money, they just try to shove their stuff into one giant carry-on. This leads to more people clogging the aisles trying to fit their oversized bags in the limited space of the overhead locker. That we know already. But why don’t airlines just let people check their bags for free? This way, passengers wouldn’t try to sneak their massive carry-ons on board and then waste precious time trying to make them fit.
No doubt, this idea sounds great, but think about it: every year, US carriers make more than $4 billion in checked-bag fees. Would you be willing to give up that kinda dough? Yeah, me neither! Some airlines have found an interesting (though unpopular with passengers) solution: they charge more for carry-on bags than they do for checked luggage.
If you forgot to pay for your carry-on, you’ll have to do it at the gate, and it may cost you a staggering $100. Well, this method seems to be working since one of such airlines claims that their boarding time is 5 minutes faster than its competitors. Yet that still doesn’t solve all the problems.
Let’s try and figure out if there are other, more effective ways of boarding the plane. Well, for starters, there’s the outward-in boarding approach. MythBusters found this method to be the fastest one yet. According to this approach, passengers who have window seats get on board first. After that, the people with middle seats get their turn.
And finally, people with aisle seats board the plane. Makes sense, right? But surprisingly, even after a few airlines adopted the outward-in approach, their boarding times didn’t improve all that much. People still get stuck behind those who insist that on their previous flight, that bag fit in the overhead locker without any problems! Oh, brother…
In 2014, a new approach appeared that’s currently considered the most efficient boarding method. It was invented by astrophysicist Dr. Jason Steffen (well, no wonder it’s so effective!). This technique was dubbed “The Steffen Method,” and it’s twice as fast as the back-to-front boarding approach and 20-30% faster than the outside-in seating method.
According to The Steffen Method, passengers board from the outside in, they take seats in every other row, and the process starts at the back of the plane. So, first of all, the airline boards passengers with window seats in row 14, then in row 12, and so on until all the window seats are occupied.
Then you do the same thing with passengers that have middle seats, and last but not least are those with aisle seats. This method works really great because there’s a buffer between rows, and nobody has to stop and wait until a person in front of them finishes fidgeting with their things.
Ok, so why haven’t all airlines switched to this method yet? The main issue is that families, couples, or friends can’t board together. That’s why it’s impossible to use The Steffen Method in its ideal form. Fair enough, but what about this approach: the order passengers board the plane in depends on how much carry-on baggage they have with them, from greatest to least.
Besides, every passenger has their own strictly assigned place in the overhead compartment where they’re supposed to put their carry-on. As a result, the luggage gets spread evenly throughout the plane, and it cuts the time people need to board. This approach does sound reasonable, but check this out.
While all these super smart scientific boarding methods are great and all, the most effective way to get to your seat has nothing to do with them. It’s based on chaos. Yep, you heard right! Southwest Airlines has been using this method of boarding for decades: they just don’t give their passengers any assigned seats.
Although this open seating policy rates low in passenger satisfaction, it does work! If you’re a passenger on this airline, you’ll get a boarding group and boarding position. After that, you just have to be fast to grab your favorite seat! By the way, what do you prefer: window or aisle seats? (Are there even people who prefer middle seats?)
Let me know down below! Anyway, theoretically speaking, this method is bound to lead to a mad dash for empty seats and utter chaos. But believe it or not, it works smoother than you’d think! Consider this: you prefer window seats. And as soon as you see one that isn’t occupied, you’ll most likely push your bag into the overhead bin and claim this seat before someone else steals it.
Quick, easy, and efficient! Oh, and there’s one more thing about Southwest Airlines that works in their favor for fast boarding. It’s one of the few airlines that don’t have check-in baggage fees. It means that fewer people try to fit all their belongings in a carry-on. As a result, this airline’s average boarding time is a mere 14 minutes and 7 seconds, which is 42% faster than the back-to-front method most air companies favor.
Actually, each airline seems to have its favorite boarding method. For example, Virgin Atlantic and American believe that the more passengers board at once, the better. That’s why they seat people more or less randomly. JetBlue starts to board passengers from the back and lets in five rows at a time.
The airline admits that it’s not the fastest way to fill the plane, but their passengers do like how predictable and structured it is. Asian carriers, such as Korean Air, Air China, or Japan Airlines, also use the back-to-front approach. But in their case, this method doesn’t slow boarding down. What’s their secret? Typically, Asian air companies have wider airplanes with two aisles. Thus, people can board faster.
For example, Korean Air states that it takes only 20 to 25 minutes for 400 passengers to board an Airbus A380. But whatever boarding approach an airline uses, it’ll always have some delays at the very beginning. Any guesses why? It’s because they always invite their top customers on board first and foremost.
First and business class passengers, frequent flyers, and those who have paid extra to be among the first to get on board usually sit in the first rows on the plane. So while these passengers are getting seated, they slow down everyone behind them.
Of course, you can safely assume that no airline is gonna do anything to solve this issue! All that being said, are airlines going to implement a more time-efficient and smoother way to board a plane any time soon? It’ll probably happen someday, but not at the moment.
So, shuffle along and make new friends in the boarding line – you’ll have more than enough time for that! Which boarding method do you think is the best? Sound off down in the comments! Don’t forget to rate “The Faster Boarding Way No Airline Will Ever Use of Bright Side” and share it with your friends.
Credit: Bright Side