Gatwick tries a new idea

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Whichever way airlines have tried in the past, boarding planes where there are more than 150 seats can be a lengthy and volatile part of the passenger “experience”.

Which is the fastest way to get passengers seated?

Letting on members of the frequent flyer club can slow things down as other passengers have to get them to move so they can reach their seats. Calling forward passengers in seat row order can be just as complex as people window seats always seem to arrive after those in aisle and middle row seats have sat down.

Gatwick is now trying something new.

Its two month trial involves boarding people in window seats first, starting at the back, followed by passengers in the middle and finally those sitting in the aisles. Theoretically, this should faster. Theoretically the only through that should mess this method up is late-boarding passengers.

Passengers needing more time such as those with disabilities, babies and small children and those who have paid extra to board before others will still be the first boarded and only then will the new seating filling plan operate.

But the number of people booking priority status has jumped. And those people usually opt for window or aisle seats so delays can still occur when passengers try to get past those seated in aisle rows.

The airport believes that different boarding methods could reduce the journey from airport gate to seat by about 10% and might reduce delays. But only might!

People can be seated until they are called via a display screen that will list their seat numbers.

The plan might work if people pay attention, don’t run late and those that are not called don’t push in. It might also work if passengers towards the end of the boarding cycle don’t have to wander rows from their own seat as they try to find space in the overhead lockers.

Readers might remember a suggestion on loading passengers by a method called “flying carpet” which worked on the basis of loading by groups of forty. That idea didn’t work but that could be because I am unaware of any airline or airport that adopted the idea.

Gatwick’s idea sounds more hopeful. But only if a no pushing in policy is adopted and that number of priority first and frequent flyer passengers as low as possible. The more those two categories of passengers grow, the more likely this plane will work.

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