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It’s tough to think of a more polarizing topic in airline travel than the Southwest boarding process. Some people love the organized structure of lining up in a very specific order based on their ticket letter/number. “It’s so civilized,” they might say.
Other people (like myself) feel like it kind of brings out the worst in human nature. I know I’m not the only one who tries to subtly peek at everyone else’s boarding pass as we’re lining up (to make sure there are no cheaters). Do I feel good about suspecting everyone else around me? No. Does that ever prohibit me from acting like this? No. It does not.
One thing I really appreciate about Southwest is they seem to be one of the most innovative airlines in the US. If you haven’t listened to Southwest’s origin story on the podcast How I Built this, I’d strongly recommend it. Even better, download it and listen to it on your next flight. A successful company that continuously looks for ways to improve their user experience sends a message that they clearly care about customer happiness (and retention).
Not only that, but Southwest has a very rewarding loyalty program, especially for folks that have the Southwest Companion Pass and the nearly 2-for-1 travel that comes with it (check out our guide to earning the Southwest Companion Pass if you’re interested in learning more about it).
So I was intrigued when I learned that Southwest is planning to try out a different boarding process in order to reduce the time it takes to load a plane.
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What’s the New Plan, Southwest?
In an effort to move people onto the plane and into their seats quickly, Southwest is now planning to try boarding from both the front and the back of the plane. How will this work?
Passengers will still line up, but now there will be 2 doors to board through. The front of the plane will board the way we’re used to. The passengers boarding through the back will be directed outside onto the tarmac where they’ll climb a set of stairs up to the plane.
But what if it’s cold outside? This new process is scheduled to start with warmer weather airports (San Jose, Burbank, Sacramento, and Long Beach, California) while the kinks are all worked out.
What’s the Goal?
The driving force behind this plan is to reduce the time that it takes passengers to board a plane. The thought is that by cutting down on time for the boarding process, Southwest will be able to maximize their flight time. Boarding and deplaning can take up a substantial amount of time. Imagine if every flight could reduce their boarding time by 10 minutes – those minutes would add up. Southwest could potentially use that saved time to offer more flights, increasing their profits and offering more itineraries to their customers.
I’ve seen this boarding process in other countries, and it actually seems to make a lot of sense when it’s executed correctly. Boarding through both the front and the back of the plane reduces those traffic jams that are so common when someone takes just a little too long to put their luggage into the overhead bin.
Have you ever flown a plane that boarded simultaneously from the front and the back? Did it seem like everyone was able to get to their seat faster? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!