We’re all familiar with the how-to-board-a-plane drill. You mill around for a long time waiting, then families and premium passengers are ushered on, followed by the back and then front halves of the plane. Some passengers are likely to shove their way to the front of the boarding line as if it’s some kind of concert, despite you all leaving at the exact same time – as is the nature of air travel.
Then comes the slow yet competitive shuffle down the aisles as you wait for people to find their seat, stow their luggage, do a brief yoga session in the aisle and eventually sit down so the rest of you can pass. Worst of all is seeing Mr I’m-at-a-concert from earlier get up reluctantly from his aisle seat to let the window and middle seat occupants past, holding everyone else up. However, this may all be about to change.
Gatwick Airport is undergoing a two-month trial at Gate 101, testing out a number of new and possibly improved boarding techniques. The airport says that it will be “learning from the trial, as well as feedback from passengers” to assess the trial’s success.
Gatwick Airport hopes that these new methods could cut boarding times by 10 per cent, says traveller.com. However, previous similar studies have shown that as much as 20 minutes can be saved, cutting boarding time by 35 per cent.
The proposed technique known as ‘WilMA’ gets window-seat passengers to board first, then middle, then aisle seats – and from the back to the front of the plane. Instructions are communicated to passengers through large digital screens, which Gatwick hopes will make the boarding experience ‘more relaxing’.
Despite these potential new boarding techniques being seemingly beneficial to everyone, not all parties may be onboard. For one, it may require groups or families to be temporarily separated in the process. However, the airport’s trial will include looking at boarding non-consecutive rows at a time, allowing some wiggle room for families to stay together. Another problem is that some airlines like to charge people extra for the privilege of boarding first, which is problematic for the airport’s attempt to speed up the process.
The results of the trial are yet to be finalised, but it could change how we board planes, especially for Mr. I’m-at-a-concert. Would you be happy with a new boarding order?
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