Boarding an aircraft should seem pretty straightforward, shouldn't it? Not if you're flying on a domestic U.S. airline. With all the tests and data studies, it seems that every airline has come to their conclusions on how to get their fingers in the mix to speed up the process and create their own "solution." From American Airline’s absurd nine boarding groups to Southwest’s lettered group queues of people rushing onboard to avoid getting pinned in a middle seat. Boarding an aircraft shouldn’t have to be so convoluted.
To take the complications out of what should really be an easy process, Alaska Airlines is simplifying its boarding process by implementing a new system on flights starting July 18. 2018. With the summer travel stretch in full swing, it's a bold time to try out this new process, but if executed correctly it could shave off those extra minutes boarding and avoid late pushbacks.
Group Boarding To Make Flying Easier
So what’s the new system and how does it work? Alaska will be breaking down the boarding into five groups – First Class, Group A, Group B, Group C, and Group D. While this doesn't sound like the most groundbreaking idea and vaguely similar to Southwest's lettered groups. Flyers on Alaska will still have assigned seats and not be running up and down the aisles looking for the best available spot to plop down in.
The most significant changes here are that passengers will fall into an easily identifiable group on their newly styled boarding passes. The announcements at the gate will also be more streamlined and straightforward to hear and understand. Nixing the calling out of "Rows 25 to 15 are ready to board." over the static-y loudspeaker, leading to people turning their heads and asking – "Which rows did they just say? Row 15? Row 50?” The lettered groups will be prominently displayed on monitors and should be easier to single out audibly over the cacophony of the airport surroundings.
The four boarding groups after First Class and active duty military are done boarding (as well as special needs passengers and families with infants) will break down like this:
A: Million Milers, Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold status elites
B: Alaska Mileage Plan MVPs and Premium Class passengers
C: Remaining passengers seated in the back half of the plane
D: Remaining passengers seated in the front half of the plane
Overall, I think this new process should work out better for Alaska Airlines passengers. While it's not the most innovative solution, it should cut down on the winding line-ups and people milling around aimlessly as "gate lice." I’m a fan of the easily distinguishable groups, and I hope that it works out seamlessly so other airlines can learn a thing or two about limiting the number of excess boarding categories, looking at you AA. It's also worth noting that Alaska Airlines has yet to join the Basic Economy bandwagon, so these boarding groups might expand by the end of the year to include those types of fares. While it seems “simplified’ for now, I wouldn’t be too surprised if there were a group E and F added by the end of the year, defeating all progress. Typical of domestic airlines.
Boarding group image courtesy of Alaska Airlines.