Boarding and de-boarding an airplane.

I’ve flown quite a few places. I’ve used quite a few different airlines. While some have assigned seating, they each have a version which is generally the same for boarding. There are preferred groups which board first, then everyone else. Sometimes it is roughly front to back, but it’s always a bit messy.

The best way to board a plane would actually be to board those with window seats first. Followed by those with middle seats, followed by those with aisle seats. This would prevent the massive amount of situations where people boarded first have aisle seats have to get up a bunch of times and everyone has to shimmy in a narrow aisle filled with other people already. This would make it more efficient, more comfortable and less stressful. You could also add ordering people back to front in this process, but that takes more coordination and can be hard if people at the gate aren’t paying attention or have arrived late.

For de-boarding, the most efficient way would be have the left aisle seats stand up at the same time, grab their bags, and all march forward at the same time. Followed by the right aisle seat doing the same. Then repeat for each middle seat and finally the window seats? Why? Because they all would have the ability to grab their bags while the others in front of them are also grabbing theirs. It would decrease the total time of de-boarding, but some exceptions may have to be made for those traveling with kids.

I’ve never seen either of these implemented likely because:

  1. It doesn’t confer status as well as the current situation.
  2. It requires an effort to coordinate this.
  3. No one is thinking about the impact it has on the bottom line.

For #3, imagine that you were able to cut time between flights down by 15 minutes for faster boarding and de-boarding. If the average plane is at a gate for 1 hour, then that could mean and extra 33% of flights in a day. At $200 average ticket price*180 people*3 extra flights per gate = $108,000 extra dollars per day/per gate. Imagine what the yearly value of this is to an airline when multiplied by gates all throughout the year, not to mention the possibility to gain market share by differentiating on the boarding process. Less time needed in the plane prior to take off and after arrival with less chaos during both as well.

Someone else thought of the fact that people will pay $20 for priority boarding instead and perhaps they get 30 people per flight to do that. $20/person*30 people/flight*16 flights/gate/day = $9600/gate/day. Less than 1/10th of the other opportunity mentioned. Why? This is because only a subset can be preferred or else no one is. Almost no one is going to pay more for boarding priority than for their ticket, and it does nothing to add more flights.

The status quo stays the status quo until someone speaks up. In this case, there is a nearly $40 million dollar yearly revenue opportunity (per gate!) based on the numbers I used based solely on boarding process. Of course, there could be other limiting factors, but that isn’t always known until someone starts asking the right questions?

“What could we be doing differently?” is a good place to start.

Bringing in outsiders, sales representatives and new perspectives builds on that start. Don’t shun people and ideas, embrace them.