Airlines experiment with faster boarding procedures

October 03, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Airlines have tried everything to speed up the boarding process, which sometimes can be agonizingly slow depending on the circumstances. Spirit Airlines, notoriously, now charges for carry on bags that don't fit under the seat—not just to raise extra revenue, but, since carry ons are charged at a higher fee than checked bags, perhaps to discourage carry ons altogether, speeding boarding, and thus optimizing aircraft turnaround.

    (Back in the days when airline passengers were only allowed to bring a small flight bag aboard, loading a plane was cinch. But back then checked bags were free and overhead bins hadn't been invented. All they had were hat racks. Even your little Pan Am shoulder bag had to go under the seat.)

    Other airlines have tried every trick in the book--window seat first, random order, by group, and, of course, the ubiquitous back of the plane to the front. That's after,  naturally, all the elite flyers, those needing assistance, and passengers traveling with small children are boarded. The latest idea? Board passengers back to front using alternate rows

    But I think the airlines have it backwards. Let's board people who will get into their seats fastest, first. By their very nature, skinny, younger people traveling without children and anyone traveling without cumbersome carry on bags can slip into their seats with less fuss and nonsense. No blocking the aisle trying to stuff steamer trunk into the overhead. Also, it's easier to scoot by slimmer people in the aisle, especially if they're not blocking it with a roll on. 

    If said petite and baggage-less person is sitting in a window seat, they'll get on board ahead of aisle and middle seaters, no matter what row they're seated in, or whatever their elite status.  Then come larger passengers in the same category with no carry ons.  Then we could seat people in the middle and aisle seats who fit the above category.  

    You get the idea. The larger your hand luggage, or your posterior, the lower in the pecking order you go.

    Maybe younger people who look like they could run a four-minute mile should get priority, too. I have nothing against older folks, in part because I'm just a few years away from falling into that demographic myself, but does it make sense for a plane full of sprinters to wait in line for someone who just had a hip replacement to get settled? How about letting those who need extra assistance board last? 

    And I've never figured out why parents traveling with small children and all their paraphernalia get to board first, since they tend to take the most time to get settled. And these days, so many passengers have elite status that half the plane gets to board basically at random. It makes no sense to me. Think this is crazy? Maybe it is, so hit me with your solution.

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