Group A for Asinine! Alaska Airlines introduces a new Boarding Process
Today, in “news that will continue to confuse passengers…”
Boarding an airplane sucks. It sucks so much that it has created a phenomenon called “gate lice.” You’ve seen them, right? The people who block the hallways in airports, all waiting to board a plane. They look down on their boarding pass as if in a trance, seemingly oblivious to anything around them.
“I’m zone 3, so since they’re on zone 1, I’ll just stand here and block everyone else because, ya know, I have to get on board the plane right away!!”
Not entirely their fault
You can’t blame the passengers for everything. Ever since airlines started charging for luggage, the race to avoid fees has begun. Passengers will continue to carry on luggage and try and get themselves on the plane first. They know that if they don’t, that precious overhead bin space will disappear and they’ll be forced to check their luggage. At least on Alaska Airlines there is a 20 minute bag guarantee so you’re not waiting too long…
Alaska Airlines thinks that they have a solution to this problem. Starting on July 18th, Alaska will “simplify the boarding process.” According to the airline:
Starting July 18, Alaska will be launching a new group boarding process that will simplify the process for guests. This identifies which of the five groups – First Class, Group A, Group B, Group C or Group D – you belong to. You’ll simply approach the gate with the rest of your group when your group is announced.
From Alaska’s Website, here’s a breakdown of the boarding timeline with the new process:
30 to 35 minutes before departure: Agents at your gate will make initial announcements letting you know that boarding will begin shortly. This is your cue to gather your things and be ready, but you don’t need to move to line up.
When boarding begins (approximate 5 minute intervals):
We’ll be boarding 4 groups – after pre-boarding (guests who need special services or additional time to board, and families with children under 2), active duty military, and First Class:
A: Million Milers, Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K and MVP Gold status elites
B: Alaska Mileage Plan MVPs, Premium Class
C: Remaining guests seated in the back half of the aircraft
D: Remaining guests seated in the front half of the aircraft
What’s the problem?
Sounds great on paper, right? But what’s really going to happen? See where it says “this is your cue to gather your things and be ready, but you don’t need to move to line up…” Ain’t no one gonna pay attention to that!
If you’ve flown more than 1 day in your life, you know that when people hear “we’re boarding soon” they all go into a tizzy and start elbowing for room at the gate. Hence, gate lice.
Customers will still continue to flood the boarding area and make it impossible to find out when it’s actually your time to board. They’ll still look at their boarding passes in disbelief, with FOMO (that’s fear of missing out for all you non-millennials) .
What’s the solution?
The real problem is that the rules aren’t enforced by gate agents when it’s time to board. People who are in Group C (or zone 2) are still allowed to board in the first class section, and the gate agents don’t enforce them. If you want to truly make a difference, when it comes time to board and it’s Group B, only let Group B people board. If the front line people aren’t in line with the back office folks, then nothing will change.
The problem exacerbates when the back office wants to impose these new rules, but also still sets very stringent rules about on time performance and boarding. They want everyone to get on board and get moving as quickly as possible, and if they start enforcing the “you’re in the wrong group” rule, those two butt against each other.
They’re hoping for self policing from passengers, but we all know that’s not a thing. Most people don’t travel enough to understand the rules and probably feel embarrassed or out of sorts asking for help.