My most popular post ever was my ground-breaking work on airline boarding procedures: the indispensable Airline Boarding Equivalency Chart.  (If the subject of business travel is ever examined by the Nobel Prize folks, this work may finally receive it’s just due.)

A New Way to Board Airplanes?

Despite my encyclopedic knowledge of airline boarding procedures, last week I encountered an entirely new procedure.  For a recent flight, the gate agent decided to add to United’s Group 1 (see the chart for whom Group 1 normally includes) all passengers:

  • seated in a window seat
  • seated in a middle seat
  • traveling with other passengers seated in a window or middle seat

This meant the only passengers who would not be in Group 1 on this flight would be unaccompanied passengers sitting in an aisle seat.  That would mean yours truly and a bunch of other business travel losers.

This boarding strategy resulted in a Group 1 that stretched 100 yards, while other groups contained only a handful of people.  I have tried to capture the relative sizes of each group in the following pictures:



group-2-4-business-travelThe Results of this Grand Experiment?

I bet you are wondering if putting more than two-thirds of the plane’s passengers in Group 1 resulted in a better boarding experience? The answer was, of course, no.   But the experiment did afford me the opportunity to see something I had not seen before: a line that extended the entire length of an extra-long jetway– from the opening of the plane’s door back into the terminal!

What Does the Data Say about Airline Boarding Procedures?

It turns out, there has been a lot of research on the topic of optimal boarding procedures. (In fact, the guys at Mythbusters did a whole episode on the topic).  But this is a topic where the data does not matter.  A slightly faster boarding procedure is not really the airlines’ goal.  The airlines’ goal is a slightly more profitable boarding procedure! A little frustration leads to more upgrades, “skip the line” fees, and premium credit card holders.

Like what you are seeing?

Signup today for free, and receive email notifications about Bob's new insights.

I will not sell or share your information with anyone.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: