Why is airline boarding so slow? Lufthansa gives us some insights

Lufthansa has studied how to make airline boarding faster. Photo: Lufthansa

Lufthansa has studied how to make airline boarding faster. Photo: Lufthansa

You may remember a few weeks ago I wrote about airline boarding processes for Conde Nast Traveler. My editor wanted to know why it takes so long for passengers to board. 

I barely scratched the surface. But essentially, there are two reasons. The first is that airlines want to reward top customers with early boarding. Most sit in the front of the plane, which slows people trying to reach the last rows. The second reason is that many airlines believe their customers want simple boarding processes. Boarding from the back to front, as many airlines do, may not be fast, but many airlines think customers like it. It is easy for gate agents to explain, and people know where they stand.

My favorite response for that story was one from a Lufthansa spokesman. I have generally found Lufthansa officials be honest in describing airline operations. 

Here's what the Lufthansa spokesman told me. Because of space issues, most of this did not make the original story, but I think it is interesting.

Lufthansa has no set worldwide policy for boarding order. "Various factors play into the decision of whether or not Lufthansa employ “row-boarding” or “random boarding” in which no particular order is observed. Firstly, there is the consideration of welcoming our priority guests, who generally board after “pre-boarding” parties but before general economy board the aircraft. Row boarding is the most common method used in the US to achieve the fastest boarding possible."

Lots of factors go into how Lufthansa boards at a certain airport. "We must consider the infrastructure of a particular airport (how much space is actually available at the gate) as well as transfer passengers (who may not be at the gate at boarding time). Outside of the US, there are also cultural implications that must be observed. There are situations where the people of a certain country are more used to random boarding and prefer it to row boarding."

Lufthansa has study the science behind boarding, but it's happy with what it has. "Lufthansa did in fact look at scientific approaches/studies on the topic, but the decision was made that these are lacking when it comes to practical implementation. ... There are a fair few variables at play and therefore there is no easy answer to the question of “which boarding strategy is better?”

What do you think of Lufthansa's explanation?



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