Airlines want better boarding: From dictating your seat to $100 cabin bag fees

There has to be better ways to make boarding quicker -- surely?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Two weeks ago, taking a brief sojourn to Latvia, I found myself in the queue to board Ryanair's metal tube.

After passing security and winding my way down endless flights of stairs, I reached a room which filled me with horror. In front of my eyes was a crushed horde of hundreds of fliers, the smell of sweat and bodies was in the air, and scores of harassed mothers attempted to calm down infants to the resignation of backpackers and suits forced to stand with a child's shrieks and sobbing in their ears.

We hadn't even boarded the plane yet.

This kind of organized chaos is only the beginning of the boarding process -- something airlines want to make more efficient.

From a financial standpoint, the quicker the flight leaves, the better. Delayed flights can be a costly business -- not only to the airline, but also the patience of passengers.

A number of methods have been tried. Research fellow at Northwestern University Jason Steffen thought that filling seats based on location -- window, middle and then aisle -- would work best; but in reality, boarding passengers in that order isn't workable.

Perhaps removing reserved seating would work with this system. However, to do so, airlines would have to kill priority boarding and class schemes -- if you're paying more, you don't expect to be dictated a seat.

Random seating takes time as passengers make a selection (personally, I stay as far away from children as possible), as does the hunt for cabin bag room. The shuffling clogs the aisle, delaying the flight further, and according to researchers from Northern Illinois University, each extra minute of delay costs an airline $30.

A number of new strategies have been rolled out this year. American Airlines lets you board sooner if you don't have a bag that needs to fit in the overhead bins, and United reduced gate areas to deter passengers with large carry-ons from getting to the gate first and holding everyone up for so long.

United in particular seems to be enjoying success with this method -- CEO Jeff Smisek claiming that delays relating to boarding has now been cut by 60 percent.

Some less popular methods are also in operation. If you're flying with Spirit Airlines, expect to pay up to $100 to put luggage in the overhead section.

It's never going to be easy, calm and perfectly timed -- but are there any better alternatives?

Image credit: Flickr

Via: The Boston Globe

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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