Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Airlines try new tactics in endless quest for better boarding


< Previous Page


In May, American began offering early boarding to passengers with just a personal item that fits under the seat. In a test at several airports, it cut boarding by two minutes per flight, according to Kevin Doeksen, the airline’s director of customer planning. With about 1,900 flights per day on American, that adds up.

What’s to stop a passenger from moving up in line by promising to put a personal item under the seat, then stuffing it in the overhead bin anyway?

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"It would be a lie to say that never happens," says Tessa Letren, an American gate agent at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "We can’t always police that."

Still, Letren supports the new policy, which she says cuts the amount of time that planes spend on the ground between flights.

Before the 2010 merger of United and Continental airlines, United used the inside-out method of boarding — window seats first, then middle, then aisle — while Continental went back-to-front. After much testing, the combined airline kept the United approach. Earlier this year, United set up additional boarding lines in the terminals to attack congestion in the gate area.

The back-to-front system, still used by many airlines, seems logical. But some studies have shown that it’s slower than windows-middle-aisle.

"If you’re on the aisle and somebody sitting next to you in the middle seat shows up, you need to unbuckle and maybe get up," says Ken Bostock, United’s managing director of customer experience. "That can take 20, 25 seconds, and that happens a lot during the boarding process."

Lou Agudo, a United gate agent who worked at Continental before the merger, says boarding by rows practically invited confusion. Just when he thought everyone in Group 2 had gone through, and he called Group 3 to start, "Twenty people would walk up and say they didn’t hear the announcement." Some had missed the call for their group, while others decided to get in line no matter what, he says. The extra lanes have made his job easier.

Anything to tidy up the gate area will help, in the view of Yosief Ghirmai, an auditor for defense contractor Raytheon Co. in Frisco, Texas, who says foreign airlines make boarding much easier for elite-level frequent fliers like himself.

"The international airlines respect the priority boarding system," Ghirmai says, citing Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific as an example. "Here, you have to fight to get to the priority boarding line — all the bags, all the kids. The concept (in the U.S.) is the same, but the execution is much better over there."


story continues below
story continues below

Selita Garcia of Chicago wondered why anybody in the front of the plane would want to board first.

"We’re always bumping into all those business-class people — if it’s not my purse, then I’m hitting them with my bag," says Garcia, who manages a doctor’s office and was taking her grandson to vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, recently. "Why let them on first? The plane is not taking off until everybody is on the plane."

Others like to get settled before takeoff.

Kausalya Palavesam, a marketing manager for Texas Instruments who was coming back from a conference in Atlanta, says about 15 passengers on her American flight took the airline’s offer to check their carry-on bags at the gate and board sooner.

"Why not?" she says. "There won’t be room for the bag (in the overhead bin) anyway."



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.