Boarding a plane is arguably one of the worst — and slowest — parts of travel, between the chaos of crowding beforehand and the scramble to shove luggage overhead.
Southwest Airlines is trying to change that. The carrier is experimenting with tactics to speed up boarding at four gates at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and shave five minutes off the time the plane sits between flights, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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Today the average “turn” is 40 minutes for Southwest’s smaller Boeing 737s and 50 minutes for the larger ones, per WSJ.
According to research from Boeing, the majority of its standard body fleet has seen a 50% slowdown in passenger boarding time since 1970.
“We want to truly understand at its most granular level of detail how passengers move on and off our aircraft,” Angela Marano, vice president of business transformation at Southwest, told WSJ. “How can we better understand some of the human behavior that slows that process down?”
Southwest is already known for its boarding process, which forgoes assigned seats and instead assigns customers a letter and number based on when they check in for the flight. Its new attempts to accelerate boarding include playing up-tempo music, which research shows makes passengers move faster, and installing video monitors with boarding countdowns and carpeted areas in different colors to section off preboarding passengers.
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The airline’s behind-the-scenes strategy includes group chats between workers at the gate, on the plane and on the ground to keep things running smoothly and a designated employee with a mobile device to check oversized bags and register pets well in advance of boarding.
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