Say Hello To Random Boarding

Friday, July 22, 2011

I’m pretty laid back when I’m traveling, happy to be on the road and committed to not letting anything spoil my good mood. But there’s one thing that really gets me, and it has to do with when the plane lands.

Why is it that certain people feel like they need to rush out of their seat and barge down the aisle, only to stand there for 10 or 15 minutes before everyone actually begins deboarding? Even worse, they stand there, nervously eyeing those passengers next to them who now are forced to wait because they felt they had a right to leave before everyone else. And this isn’t limited to planes of course, as I’ve seen this behavior on buses, trains and subways too.

My thought on fixing this? Why not make deboarding like boarding? Limit who gets to leave and in what order. Pregnant women, the disabled, elite status fliers and travel bloggers could be given priority to leave first, then blocks of passengers randomly selected could be called on in five-minute intervals to leave. This sounds right up the alley of someone like RyanAir who just “gets it” (remember when they were entertaining standing room only seats?).

In an effort to speed up that other end of the flight, boarding, American Airlines decided to find out how they could get everyone on the plane and buying bottles of portable dog toilets from Skymall more quickly. The result may surprise you, as the WSJ reported:

. . . American Airlines undertook a two-year study to try and speed up boarding. The result: The airline has recently rolled out a new strategy—randomized boarding. Travelers without elite status get assigned randomly to boarding groups instead of filing onto planes from back to front.

[I]n American’s tests, random boarding performed [better than other boarding methods]. Multiple passengers got to their seats at the same time. Bins filled up more evenly in tests because people stowed bags where they were sitting, not at the front of the plane. The process also proved calmer when tested with real flights.

Turns out, this system shaves up to five minutes off the average 20 to 25 minutes it normally takes to board. Next problem on the radar to solve: world peace.

[Carl and Ruth boarding SAS plane 1952 by elcaarchives/Flickr]

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