Why The Airline Boarding Process May Not Be All Wrong

June 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever stood in line waiting to board a flight and thought to yourself, “If they’d just put me in charge, I could get us on this plane a lot faster”?

British Airways 747-400 World Traveller cabin
Welcome to the club. We’ve all thought it.

Truth be told, though, it’s not as random or inefficient as it may seem. Just the opposite. Vast amounts of research have resulted in several different processes over several different airlines. We found the following compilation in an article on Conde Nast Traveler very interesting.

How Do the Airlines Do It?

American didn’t disclose its system entirely, but did share that it uses a complicated algorithm to determine boarding zones that will allow the most passengers access to the overhead bin space and their seats simultaneously.

Virgin allows all customers to board at once, not favoring its frequent fliers like other airlines. This systems works because it allows fliers to board and sit in their assigned seats as they’re ready to do so, unlike Southwest’s system, which rewards those based on check-in time because it does not assign seats.

JetBlue boards by row, five at a time, from the back of the plane to the front, preferring the predictability of the process, while United uses the WILMA model — windows, middle, and aisle seats — because researchers have found this one of the fastest methods of boarding. Delta boards its planes by ticket price, allowing those who have paid the most the earliest access.

Perhaps the most unique was Lufthansa’s approach. The airline found that its planes load fastest when their personnel adapt to the cultural norms of the country they’re in, so sometimes it boards row-by-row and other times it allows all passengers to board at once.

While we’d be surprised if anyone chose an airline based on these processes, it does help to know there’s a method to the madness, and it is designed to make the experience the best it can be for its travelers.

If the airlines put you in charge, what method would you pick? Why? Leave your suggestions and ideas in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Rene Ehrhardt (Flickr/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)

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Matt Sill

Matt Sill is the Marketing Product Manager for Travelpro Products, creators of the original Rollaboard luggage, carry-on luggage, and suitcases.

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