As aircraft become larger, the seating density increases and the amount of passengers rises too. For both the airline and passengers, boarding can become a rather long-winded experience; with plenty of bottlenecks along the way – which adds to the stress.
What Usually Happens
On long-haul flights where you have the likes of the Boeing 747, 777–300 or an Airbus A380 operating; a two-door boarding process may be utilised. On single deck aircraft, this would be through Doors 1 and 2 Left, with business and first class passengers boarding through Door 1, and economy/premium economy through the latter. For the likes of the A380, you’ll usually find one entry point for each deck. Short-distance flights who are lucky enough to be attached to an air bridge will often use one-door, but if you’re having to catch a bus – sometimes there will be a staircase at the front and rear of the aircraft.
The boarding process usually begins with the announcements inviting passengers who require assistance to board, followed by young children, business and elite frequent traveller members, premium economy passengers and then economy passengers. For me, it makes sense for economy customers to be invited to board from the rear to the front of the cabin, several rows at a time.
In an ideal world, passengers (and airlines) would love to have the ability to board an aircraft with very little hassle; and the small matter of worrying whether there is enough room to stow their hand baggage.
It’s not as easy as ABC
An airline can implement a really good boarding system; but it’s no surprise that not everyone boards when they are supposed to – Some airlines use a window middle aisle process (self-explanatory), but we all know that many passengers don’t always tend board when they are called, or even seem to corral around the gate as though the flight won’t wait for them… which doesn’t help things.
Hand Baggage probably gives airlines the biggest headache as they can come in all sorts of sizes. Some airlines allow a carry-on and a personal bag; whilst others say all items must fit into one. I’ve spent quite a lot of time at airports and have witnessed some passengers trying to get through the gate area saying that their medium-sized suitcase is hand-baggage; which is just ridiculous. There really should be a definitive industry standard to the subject; and not minor variations in the weights and dimensions between carriers. It would make life a lot easier.
It’s worth nothing that many items that are purchased within the departures of the area of the airport terminal aren’t usually counted as “hand baggage” by the airlines; but they still can cause issues.
Unfortunately with a boarding process, it’s usually the Premium Economy cabin that suffers. Many airlines like to welcome their Premium customers with a pre-departure beverage. But this can easily turn into a logistical nightmare if the aircraft configuration requires Economy customers to pass through during boarding in order to reach their seats. It’s a small matter and some airlines have worked out ways to still offer this service; whilst others may delay the “welcome drink” until at cruising altitude.
Have you ever encountered a stress-free boarding experience? Or perhaps you’d like to name and shame the airlines whom are notorious for their lacklustre approach to embarkation. I’d love to hear your story, so please do leave your comments below.