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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Iamwonderingabout... Airline Boarding Procedures

How do airlines determine boarding order and why do they use that method?

Brittany, my Facebook and doing Life friend, is returning home from a cruise (I love cruises, by the way; my favorite is the Disney cruise). Well, it looks like she had a great time, from last week's posts, but this morning I just happened to see her post saying that she did not understand "why planes load from front to back," thinking it made more "common sense" to do the opposite. Well, Brittany, your post got me wondering... So here goes.

One of the most interesting bits of knowledge I learned about airplane boarding order is that just within the past two years, a physicist determined the best process to use, random seating, though it is currently only used by three airlines: Southwest, Northwest and US Airways. 

According to the Guide to Airline Boarding Procedures, there are five boarding styles used:

       -  outside-in (window, middle, and aisle order)      United Airlines
       -  random (no assigned seats - seat determined by order of check-in)  see Airlines above 
       -  rear to front    Air Canada, Alaska, American, British Airways, Continental,
                                 Frontier, Jet Blue, Midwest, Spirit and Virgin Atlantic
       -  rotating zone (first class then alternating zones in back and front till filled)  Air Tran
       -  zone/block style (first class, then elite, followed by back to front)  Delta

Additionally, most airlines give first preference to business class, first class and those with special needs as much as possible and sometimes passengers with children.

The guide above is designed to help you find the best seat before you fly, with seat advice for over 700 seatmaps, backed by over 25,000 flier reviews.

Some further research information I found said that the positioning of passengers proportionately could also benefit the weight, balance and shift of the plane, affecting take off and landing if unevenly balanced. This is similar to how cargo is loaded onto a semi-truck trailer.

From a financial aspect, the airlines definitely seek efficiency in getting passengers on board: the sooner they are boarded, the sooner the plane flies which means a faster turnaround time so that more flights are made. Down time means loss of revenue.

Learning about airplane boarding order was interesting, Brittany. I found some information that is sure to make me wiser for the future. Thanks for giving me the spark of a thought to ponder. I hope I passed along some helpful knowledge for you and others as well.

This wonder has been answered, tomorrow brings another...

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