It turns out this is something of a loaded question when boarding a flight – not easily answered. Here’s why. Everyone is different and people look for different things in a smooth boarding experience.

The fastest, most efficient boarding process (random)

If you’re looking for a quick and easy boarding experience, there’s one airline head and shoulders above the rest and that’s Southwest. Southwest’s boarding procedures are nearly 47% faster than the traditional “back to front” boarding procedures favored by most airlines.

Unfortunately, people don’t love this procedure, considering it akin to being in a “cattle call.” The unpleasantness of the Southwest boarding procedure is undoubtedly tied to the fact that Southwest does not have assigned seating. While this factor doesn’t have much to do with boarding, it does mean that people do not see the boarding process as separate from the on-board experience.

The “typical” process when boarding a flight

Most airlines use “block” boarding, which simply means that the airlines group passengers (usually by numbered groups) and then board the airplane from back to front. This process does (on the surface) seem to be the most logical. But it’s also only efficient if people walk onto the airplane and sit down immediately.

In real life, people have to stow their overhead bags, and people aren’t always moving at a decent clip. Block boarding typically causes bottlenecks of people standing in aisles and on the jetway, while the people on the plane take their time getting situated.

Who is WILMA? What is the so-called WILMA process?

Another boarding process is what’s known in the “biz” as the WILMA boarding procedure. WILMA stands for “Window-Middle-Aisle. The process is fairly straightforward. Passengers wirth window assignments get seated first, followed by those with center seats, and then those on the aisle are last. WILMA Is also done back to front, but is faster than block boarding because it allows multiple people to get seated at the same time.

Does Priority boarding help?

You know that in addition to First Class passengers (who always board first) most airlines give priority boarding to passengers who need extra time to board – the disabled, those families with babies and small kids. Letting these folks get a head start in boarding does help with boarding speed for the rest of the passengers on a flight.

So why does it take so long boarding a flight?

Well, this is the interesting part. When scientists and logistics specialists study theoretical boarding practices, they do so in a controlled environment. When an airline is boarding on the daily, they give priority to a wide-ranging group (or groups) of passengers. So, for example, United Airlines gives priority boarding to at least 3 groups of passengers on every flight before they even get to Economy travelers. So as long as the airlines are going to give preferential treatment to people who pay for the privilege of boarding early or their frequent fliers, we probably won’t see more streamlined boarding procedures.

What do you think? Are you happy with how the airlines handle boarding? Do you have any thoughts about a better way or are you content with how airlines manage this? Let us know in the comments below.

Search for Flights

Post a Comment