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Transportation Businesses The Almighty Buck

Airlines Won't Dare Use the Fastest Way to Board Planes (wired.com) 310

An anonymous reader writes: You've arrived at the airport early. You have already selected the perfect seat. You've employed all possible tricks for making the check-in and security processes zoom by. But there's still some blood-pressure-raising chaos you can't avoid: boarding. From impatient fellow travelers who are determined to beat you onto the plane to passengers who insist on jamming their too-big carry-ons into overhead bins, making your way to your seat can be straight-up hellish -- and Wired's Alex Davies offers up a cheery explanation of why the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. It's not that airlines aren't trying. In fact, United is in the middle of a months-long test at LAX that involves splitting its five groups of passengers into two lines, instead of five, to see whether that will make boarding less painful. But there are some basic measures that airlines could be taking to speed things up -- offering free baggage check, for instance, or cutting down on early boarding perks -- if they weren't so worried about their bottom lines. "The question for the airlines, then, is not how to get everyone onto a plane as quickly as possible," Davies writes. "It's how to get everyone onto a plane as quickly as possible while still charging them extra for bags, doting on the regular customers, and maintaining the system that, like all class structures, serves whoever built it."
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Airlines Won't Dare Use the Fastest Way to Board Planes

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  • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @03:29PM (#56177473)

    Honestly, except for needing to stuff an oversize bag in the overhead no one should want to be crammed into the stuffy airborne-infection-enabling metal tube any sooner than absolutely necessary to take off on time. Yet so many seem to treat it like trying to grab a seat on the subway.

    • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @03:39PM (#56177571)

      Honestly, except for needing to stuff an oversize bag in the overhead no one should want to be crammed into the stuffy airborne-infection-enabling metal tube any sooner than absolutely necessary to take off on time. Yet so many seem to treat it like trying to grab a seat on the subway.

      That's the only reason I want to board quicker.

      If I'm first on, I get to place my bag close to me. If I'm last on, I have to place my bag frequently far from my seat. I always carry my luggage carry on. I'm rarely gone for more than a week (and I can get a week's clothes in carry on). I don't want to pay extra to check luggage, so I get the maximum carryon size allowed (I do check), and I stuff it full.

      Usually though, routes I fly, they check my "carry on" free at the gate because flights are always overcrowded and they give free checking to people at the gate. I don't remember the last flight I had where they didn't check for free at the gate. I laugh at the suckers who paid to check their baggage. :)

      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        I check my bags because the company pays. If they'd pony up the $100 for the Skymiles upgrade to the corporate AMEX card, they'd save money, but some executive somewhere couldn't stomach the idea that employees might benefit from free miles when using their corporate cards - so, in my case, it's more out of spite.
      • Well,
        seems to bbe either an american or a white men problem.
        Where ever I was flying people put their hand luggage over their head.
        Why would Input my $2k somewhere in the fromt rows luggafe compartment and sit myself in the rear of the plane?
        How one can be so stupid not to put his own luggafe above his own head is beyond me.

    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      It's all about the overhead space! ...or occasionally not stewing in the icky terminal. Especially if you're flying business or first.

    • The people without an oversized still want to put their normal sized bag overhead rather than taking up their tiny leg room - and thus are racing with the oversized bag carriers (who need to get it overhead since it won't fit under the seat in front).

    • The problem isn't getting on early enough to squeeze an oversize bag into the overhead bin. It's someone else with an oversize bag getting on before you and hogging up all the overhead space, forcing you to put your medium-sized bag underneath the seat in front of you where it cuts into your foot room, or having a flight attendant put your bag into an overhead space way in the back so you'll have to wait for everyone to disembark before you can get your bag and get off.

      Basically, a lot of the problem co
    • As others have said, early boarding is the price you pay in order to get an overhead space which is really an awful system. I travel a lot for business and would gladly pay for a reserved overhead space if that was available. But instead the airlines charge for checked baggage (something that most of us go to great lengths to avoid). If checked baggage were free and cabin baggage were $50, I'd pay the fee every time and board dead last. It's really a function of the airlines not knowing their customers.
      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        Why? I get when people want to save money, but I'd rather check the bag instead of having to lug it around the airport all day. All my valuables are still with me in my backpack anyway, and while I've had lost luggage before, it was a LONG time ago and it's actually quite rare.
    • This probably depends a lot on the airport, but I traveled over 100k miles last year, but checking vs not checking can be the difference of an hour+ in your total travel time. I have been forced to gate check going to Newark and literally waited an hour for the carousel to start moving. This is not insignifcant. This is (another) missed dinner with your family, or an hour of lost sleep or decompression time. This is an hour later to the office, which may be a big problem depending on whether you have an imp

    • If you travel a lot, you want to be able to get to your seat and wind down before takeoff. It is true for parents with screaming kids and business travelers with noise cancelling headphones because of the screaming kids alike. You want your bag stowed, any of your own seat shuffling to be done, and start relaxing just a little bit.

      When you are in first, the incentives can also include the pre-departure drink, not waiting in a long line, etc.

      I'm not sure if the fastest boarding is the most efficient or max

      • by PKFC ( 580410 )

        I guess I don't understand it. I'm a pretty bug guy so why would I want to race to get on a plane just to sit in a cramped seat for longer? I wait around the gate until final boarding call just because that is less stressful and more comfortable. All the yahoos have already fought over whatever it is they do and I can just walk in, sit down and have the shortest wait until takeoff.

  • Starting about 20 years ago, the commercial airlines business has become a race to the bottom - the goal is to find out who can offer the worst services, while at the same time squeezing as much money as possible out of the passengers, while minimizing the loss of business.
    • Well when the only thing they have to compete on is price, what else would happen? People only shop by fare. Not that I blame the other customers. I do the same thing.
      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        Yes - that is the cause. There really is no solution. If you offered a "premium" airline, you'd go out of business pretty quickly, I think.
    • This isn't a race to the bottom. For those of you who aren't old enough to remember air travel before deregulation, prices were about twice as high [theatlantic.com] back then.

      If you want as much service and frills as we had back then, you can still get them by paying extra for them. The only thing that's changed is that you have the option of paying less if you're willing to give up the frills and additional service. If you choose to pay less for worse service, then that's your decision. Not the airline's.
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      So I flew when you could pug anything on a plane. Televisions, air conditioning units, anything that could be put in a box and moved through to the plane. And there were no practice limits to how many boxes you could have.

      I don't think we want to go back there due to the disparity of costs. Airplanes costs are largely weight, at least for luggage. The limiting factor for people is the number of seats, and some people are required to buy two seats. But I have been planes where they have had to adjust

  • As much as I as a consumer would prefer to not pay extra for a Baggage check, I don't think it is as much the cost that is hindering people from checking their baggage but the hassle of doing such.

    Hassle 1: Waiting in line to get it checked, as now your boarding pass can often be printed from home or from a kiosk at the airport, you don't need to wait in line to check your baggage.
    Hassle 2: Waiting for it to get out of the plane. After a long flight, you just want to get to your destination. Having to wait

    • I didn't see much of a scientific rationale behind the article's assertions. Truth be told, the guy talking doesn't display any sort of credential--not a certification or whanot, but at least an explanation of the merits of what he's saying. All he says is airlines are doing a bunch of stuff and they're stupid and his way would be better because it would.

    • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

      I fly several times a year for my company, and I completely disagree. I think it's more perception than reality.

      1) This is the most valid point, but unless you're late to the airport it's a moot point, because the plane's not leaving any sooner because you didn't have to check a bag. If you are late, then it's your own damn fault.

      2) Nearly every time I've flown the bag is already there by the time I get to the carousel, or within 5 minutes or so. It depends when you get off the plane. If you rush off, p

  • Boarding the plane isn't so bad... it's the time after boarding, after the plane pushes away from the gate, sitting on the tarmac with out much air circulation - that's the worst.
    "on time" is defined by the time the plane leaves the gate - even when it sits on the runway for 2 hours waiting...... so airlines are incentivized to just "push away" and sit.
    • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
      I thought "on time" is defined by when it lands. And the fact is that more and more flights are "on time" because they pad the arrival time (like saying a 1.5 hour flight will arrive 2 hours after scheduled departure time); perhaps it's just building in those typical delays into the estimates.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @03:43PM (#56177607)

    The fastest way possible to load would be to use Southwest's system where people can pick their own seat, with a twist - the plane always unloads from the opposite door they load in, and every landing you switch doors you dock at front to back.

    Everyone wants to sit to get off as soon as possible, so under this system the first people in would flock to the back and not block up people just trying to get on.

    The other thing that slows down boarding is carry-ons. I do think maybe airlines should have checked luggage free but charge for carry-on bags that go in overhead, so they'd be less common and go to those that really need carry on. If people knew they would be getting carry-on space for sure they would not be so desperate to board early.

    Another system that would help a lot with checking bags is some system you could call SureCheck, that would text you when your bag(s) had entered the hold of the plane. Most people would feel more secure in checking bags if they could perhaps see what part of the airport baggage handler process the bag was in. It would involve a lot of technology but I think increased check-ins would be worth it overall...

    • That's actually an interesting idea to charge for carry on but not for checked luggage. I imagine the cost of checked luggage would be an issue in the long run.

    • The other thing that slows down boarding is carry-ons. I do think maybe airlines should have checked luggage free but charge for carry-on bags that go in overhead

      Just let everyone without a carry-on deplane before the overheads are opened. I'd much rather wait 20 min in baggage claim if it meant I could avoid 10 minutes getting off the plane.

      • That sounds good in theory but the practical reality of it is that it is too much hassle letting people out of window and center seats and shuffling everyone back out of the way so just those people can get out... unloading seems slow at times but is no-where near as slow as loading usually is. Plus again, if you enticed people not to use overhead storage they would all be out a lot faster as well as boarding faster.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      The other thing that slows down boarding is carry-ons. I do think maybe airlines should have checked luggage free but charge for carry-on bags that go in overhead, so they'd be less common and go to those that really need carry on. If people knew they would be getting carry-on space for sure they would not be so desperate to board early.

      A lot of airlines use even narrow-body aircraft to carry freight in the cargo bins. Every time you fly you could very likely have a couple thousands pounds of mail, cargo, or even a human body or 2 sitting under you. Free checked bags means less room for cargo which is a pretty big money maker.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 23, 2018 @03:43PM (#56177613)

    https://mythresults.com/airplane-boarding

  • It is a free market. Some airline or the other will decide to charge a little more to all and offer smoother boarding. Sooner or later. If enough people are willing to pay that extra money for hassle free boarding, that airline will make tons of money and others will copy it.

    It was not long time ago when domestic flights allowed two free checked in bags, each 70 lb. Heck, I still have those suitcases. Then it became 50 lb and then one checked in bag, and then no checked in bag. Southwest still gives free

  • As described here [travelweekly.com], it's mainly about trying to keep so many people from getting up and standing in line all at the same time and clogging up the walkways. Group 1 boards through lane 1 and group 2 through lane 2, then groups 3/4/5 board through lane 2 while group 1/2 stragglers continue through lane 1.

    The only part where they're experimenting with altering boarding order according to window/middle/aisle position is people in groups 3/4/5. So query though how much this really changes things when the majori

  • If you think about it, all of these airplanes have "emergency exits" in parts of the plane other than near the cockpit in front. So you could utilize at least one of those near the rear of the plane during boarding -- if you redesigned the boarding platforms at the terminal gates to work with them.

    Then you could simultaneously have people board on both sides of the plane, filling in the rows in the middle first and working towards either end.

    But THAT would require a lot more expense -- so I doubt you'll eve

  • by dmatos ( 232892 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @04:02PM (#56177765)

    Hell, I'd pay a premium to be sedated in the departures lounge, stacked in a tiny coffin on the plane, and woken up at my destination. Load me in any damn order you like once I'm unconscious.

  • Look at grocery stores... one line per checkout, means you're fucked if you get stuck behind somebody that needs a price check, or is price matching everything in their buggy. One long line that feeds into the individual checkouts would be way WAY faster. But will we see it? Nope. If something that simple can't even be done properly, I doubt airlines will ever figure out efficiency.
    • One long line that feeds into the individual checkouts would be way WAY faster. But will we see it? Nope.

      Around me, Best Buy and a few other stores do exactly that.

  • I put my bag in the first bin to my left as soon as I board. It doesn't belong to anyone. I pack light, you can buy what you need at your destination. Some people are too territorial about the space on a plane, enjoy the flight and your crowded, cramped time in the air.
    • I put my bag in the first bin to my left as soon as I board. It doesn't belong to anyone.

      That first bin is almost always at a bulkhead where there is no under-seat storage available. The passengers seated there have no place but the overhead to put their carry-ons, no matter how small they are. You've filled up their overhead space because "it doesn't belong to anyone" just so you don't have to spend your time looking for space near your seat, meaning they may have to spend time searching for space that is well behind them -- and slowing down the boarding for everyone while they do it. And slow

  • . . . . when they used to board beginning at the back of the plane? That at least made sense - you didn't have to crawl over people settling into the seats in the front. Now they still board by "zones", but it's not zones, it's nothing to do with zones, it's solely a question of status.
  • by edi_guy ( 2225738 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @05:30PM (#56178433)
    As pretty much everyone has known for years, the major problem surrounds checked baggage. First that airlines charge you for checked bags, so everyone tries to bring only carry-on, and second because with some degree of frequency collecting your checked bag can take anywhere from 30 minutes to eternity.

    I have always wondered why the airlines and plane manufacturers didn't get together to create a standard checked bag form factor. A plastic hardshell case such is currently popular, with both embedded RFID and barcodes. Normal conveniences such as 4 wheels, extending handle, etc. Designed in such a way that loading and unloading can be nearly fully automated, similar to what you see used on cargo jets. If you use one of their cases, your bags are guaranteed to be at the carousel 15 minutes after the passenger door is opened upon landing. If you so desperately need to use your calvin klein designer luggage you wait.

    The RFID tags also allow them to weigh the bags and charge the passenger accordingly. If my case only weighs 20 lbs and Aunt Bee's bag weighs in at 49.9 lbs, she pays more. Personally I would actually pay the extra $10-$25 tax for a checked bag if I knew I could get it back quickly at baggage claim,

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