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Why Choreographed Airplane Boarding Might be a Good Idea
April 26, 2014 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Basically, it would be faster. The best part about the article is the short, embedded videos showing simulations of different boarding processes. There's the standard method, the Southwest pick-your-own-seat method, and the dehumanizing Steffen method.
posted by Eyeveex (106 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn, boarding is one of the many awful things to hate about flying these days. It’s stunning to watch how long it takes people get in their freakin seat, and annoying how many have to carry their luggage on the plane with them.

People are annoying.
posted by bongo_x at 3:29 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]


This at least addresses the question I ask myself repeatedly while while boarding, "why do they do it like this?" Like the security screening, I’m always looking around thinking "we all know this is stupid, right?"
posted by bongo_x at 3:32 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Boarding could be made even more efficient by placing each passenger into cryostasis before loading them onto the aircraft.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:40 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


I don't see why this would be so hard to implement. Southwest already has a pretty efficient system of lining people up to board in a specific order, all you'd have to do is assign boarding numbers based on the seat the passenger was assigned to instead of first-come first-serve. Each boarding pass would have a boarding number (like Southwest's do) AND a seat number.
posted by Morriscat at 3:46 PM on April 26


I just wait til the final boarding call and get on last to minimize my time spent standing around in that horrible kill chute while someone struggles to fold up their $1,200 stroller the size of an ATV or jam their entire fucking chiffarobe into the overhead compartment.

Really it should just be all out bloodsport though.
posted by elizardbits at 3:47 PM on April 26 [28 favorites]


I don't know-- A lot of these techniques seem to assume a cow is a perfect sphere. Even in flights where there are only four or so boarding groups, it's still largely a free-for-all at the gate.

Personally, I'm always at the back of the boarding queue. I've got no idea the benefit of being on the plane early (flying economy anyway) since the later you leave boarding the plane, the less time you have to sit in that crappy chair.

on preview: elizardbits, we'd be perfect travel companions :)
posted by Static Vagabond at 3:51 PM on April 26


I just wait til the final boarding call and get on last to minimize my time spent standing around in that horrible kill chute while someone struggles to fold up their $1,200 stroller the size of an ATV or jam their entire fucking chiffarobe into the overhead compartment.

This is what I do with assigned seats, I’m the last one on. But when I fly Southwest you get punished for that. Sucks. They like to make it some sort of competition, from the time you check in online.
posted by bongo_x at 3:52 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


The "zones" seem to be an attempt at this. Last row first seems pretty obvious but gotta get the rich drinkers on first (that one really eludes me, if I could afford first class I'd have little interest in sitting there while the plebs walked past me, check in and hit the lounge for a shower and sit down just at the gate closes)

But there is quite a bit of empty time and they rarely need to rush a boarding. So keep folks annoyed at other boarders rather than the airline. Sit everyone down efficiently often means another 20 minutes of sitting on the tarmac.
posted by sammyo at 3:56 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


I don't really understand what's dehumanizing about the Steffen method (or, at least, what's significantly more dehumanizing about it than any of the other methods). I was expecting passengers sucked up from the boarding area into a dizzying high-speed pneumatic tube and unceremoniously plopped into their seat, followed by the seat belt immediately, automatically, and uncomfortably snapping shut.
posted by Flunkie at 3:58 PM on April 26 [10 favorites]


They left out the "bus" boarding method, popular in Paris and other of the world's shittiest airports. Where you wait in a hot, unventilated room anxiously waiting for your flight. Then 80 of you cram into a freezing, unheated well ventilated bus and drive around the airport for 25 minutes until you walk across the pavement and up the stairs in the rain. And then you wait on the stairs, outside, for the people in front of you to get through the fucking door and into the plane.
posted by Nelson at 4:01 PM on April 26 [30 favorites]


I'd have little interest in sitting there while the plebs walked past me

IME most large/long-haul planes board from about 1/4-1/3 of the way down, so when first class boards they turn left to get to their seats, and then the curtain/antipoor force field is closed. Business and steerage board next, turning right to get to their seats - there is no contact with the first class cabin at all. What you are walking past is business class.

Of course if you board and see the cockpit directly to your left then all bets are off.
posted by elizardbits at 4:01 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Regarding the "the dehumanizing Steffen method", after being poked, prodded, scanned, grumbled at and rushed to wait, I am not sure the Steffen method could dehumanize the airline experience and more than it already is.

In fact, the logic of that boarding process would be a breath of fresh air.
posted by lampshade at 4:07 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


I basically pay whatever I need to pay to be in the first group on. I refuse to check luggage, so I have my carry on with me, and do not like it when I have to fight for space.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:14 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


I hate outside-in boarding and don't care if it's more efficient. All it means is that tall people who already have to book aisle seats to find flying even remotely bearable also have to put up with the inconvenience of getting screwed over on overhead bin space. I prefer back-to-front or Southwest-style boarding, which at least gives me a chance, and choose airlines accordingly.
posted by shadow vector at 4:15 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Whatever method is used, I just wish they'd start teaching it in the schools, because every time I fly, about 80 percent of the people have clearly never so much as been in an airport before, much less flown on an airplane, and they are totally mystified by every single aspect of air travel. I honestly expect at least one person every flight to start screaming on takeoff when they realize we've left the fucking ground.

And for gods' sake, empower the flight attendants to just grab a bag and say, "Nope. Too big, plus you're carrying two other bags, so you'll get it at baggage claim."
posted by Etrigan at 4:16 PM on April 26 [39 favorites]


So let's see. I have flown Southwest fairly often. I've also flown first class surprisingly often, fancypants trans-pacific business class, regular business class, commuter airbus puddlejumpers with eight seats total, plenty of sardine economy, and United normal not-actually-poor-just-sane economy class. In short, I have experienced many different boarding scenarios.

The best by far is the United semi-logical boarding system on bigger flights where they let you board with your family or travel companions, but go window seats, then middle, then aisle. (On the upside I prefer aisle seats so I can usually sneak in that final pee before boarding. This is the big problem with first class. I have actually decided to wait at the gate and sneak into my first class seat at the last second more than once.) The problem is that the clustering makes people stupid. Southwest is a close second but the passive aggressive ticket-flashing in the cattle lineup brings out the worst in people. Also, cattle lineup. Mooooo.

I think that airlines need to learn from amusement parks. They need to hire boarding assistants and not dump it on the overburdened flight attendants. There should be a crack team of people who eye up carry-ons, arrange them all in rows that fit the overhead bins, make people stand by their stuff, and then literally stick the carryons in the overhead bins before people are even allowed on the plane. In little chunks. People can have vibrating wristbands to tell them it's time to get on the plane. I know it's expensive and unfeasible for people to release their deathgrip on their ridiculous carry-ons, but a girl can dream.
posted by Mizu at 4:18 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Flunkie: "I don't really understand what's dehumanizing about the Steffen method (or, at least, what's significantly more dehumanizing about it than any of the other methods). "

It fails to account for people travelling in groups greater than one. However, that's not really a correct use of "dehumanising".

(I'm really not a fan of this article. It seems link-baity and it's not as if this is news.)
posted by hoyland at 4:19 PM on April 26


Any seating algorithm that disregards complexity outside the gate, or the need to board adjacent seats at the same time is idiotic.

The Southwest seating model presupposes the Southwest ticketing model; it's a related but different problem, and the same solution would not work as well for the other airlines as long as they support assigned seats. Maybe the solution is for us all to move to the Southwest ticketing model, but good luck seating thirty high-schoolers without any consecutive seats due to the urinal-style staggering of the people ahead of them.

I've spent a lot of time travelling, recently. I'm surprised to hear that rear-first boarding is so inefficient, but it is at least a predictable inefficiency. People understand how it works, whether they agree with it or not. You know when people have jumped the queue, and can collectively give them that ever-so-slightly accusatory glare as you walk past them (ever-so-slightly discouraging future bad behavior). A single incident (e.g. that one dude who is so determined to make his bag fit that he will literally bend the laws of space and time to do it) at least has a chance of being contained to a small part of the plane rather than holding up the entire boarding process.

If you're going to ignore reality in order to optimize air travel, at least start with the obvious things like eliminating friction.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:27 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


It fails to account for people travelling in groups greater than one.
Well, so do the outside-in and the Southwest.
posted by Flunkie at 4:28 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


And, unlike in the Southwest case, there's an obvious small modification that can be made to fix that (which the article mentions is made in United's real-life implementation of outside-in).
posted by Flunkie at 4:30 PM on April 26


Well, Southwest's policy ignores large parties, but it has a "families traveling with small children" boarding policy (I believe it's between A and B or you can all board with the person holding the A card) and the first one of the couple to board always holds a seat for the second--there's no preventing that.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:41 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Much worse than boarding is waiting to deplane. People seem utterly incapable of standing up, getting heir bag(s) and then walking out the door. It's mystifying.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:42 PM on April 26 [17 favorites]


I once flew first class and I was perfectly happy to board earlier because the seats in the plane were more comfortable than those in the airport. And like many people, I prefer to board slightly earlier so I can find space for my bag. It's not like the waiting area is sybaritic.
posted by jeather at 4:43 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


I don't know what "between A and B" or "the A card" mean - I have never flown with this seating policy and the article doesn't seem to mention anything about it, but as for "the first one of the couple to board always holds a seat for the second", that assumes that there are two seats together by the time that the first boards.
posted by Flunkie at 4:44 PM on April 26


But in any case, all I'm really saying is that "Steffen doesn't account for groups" doesn't make it any more dehumanizing than others.
posted by Flunkie at 4:45 PM on April 26


It would be cool to see if you could train people to do this. High schools could have teams competing to see who could fill a plane the fastest (the winners would get a free trip to Indiana). If it's really important to save those three minutes, it's one place where our Libertarian instincts could usefully be subjugated to the will of the Passengers. (Cue some cool art-deco aircraft posters...)

Then, if that saves the country a few billion simullions, we could train people to deplane! Although I think they'd figure it out for themselves.
posted by sneebler at 4:46 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Much worse than boarding is waiting to deplane. People seem utterly incapable of standing up, getting heir bag(s) and then walking out the door. It's mystifying.

The standing up part they get just fine. Most of the plane jumps up the second the bell rings and stands there, hunched over and tripping over each other, even though we’re not getting off the plane for 5 minutes. In spite of this, when it’s actually time to get off the plane most people act completely unprepared for it and can’t figure out how it works.
posted by bongo_x at 4:48 PM on April 26 [13 favorites]


I'm still waiting for an airline to offer Japanese capsule-hotel style seating, little beds stacked three on top of each other. I would take up the same amount of space and I'd sleep so much better.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:51 PM on April 26 [10 favorites]


Meh. What's the point? You get to your seat two and a half minutes faster, but it's not like the plane is fuelled and de-iced and loaded with luggage and cargo any faster, or the runway is any clearer or anything.

It just means you're two and a half minutes closer to deep vein thrombosis.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:52 PM on April 26 [6 favorites]


(Besides, wouldn't it necessitate additional queueing before boarding the plane?)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:55 PM on April 26


I think that airlines need to learn from amusement parks.

YES THIS and also from Japanese subways with the professional whitegloved shover-inners. But not with the weird humping.
posted by elizardbits at 4:56 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


EVERYTHING is better with choreography.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:58 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Yet another boarding scheme that ignores reality.

1) Most airlines reward frequent flyers to keep then flying that airline. They get to board first, because they want overhead space...

2) ...and they don't sit in the back.

3) The single biggest problem with boarding is people. They can't get the bags stowed, they walk at different speeds, some have no idea where they're sitting and check EVERY SINGLE ROW and some just lose the overhead lottery and have to gate check. That last is worst in 737s and MD80s, the losers in the seats to overhead ratio.

4) Flyers can optimize for boarding -- check bags, board first and go to the window. They can optimize for thier time, which means they board at the last possible minute, carry on, and sit in a forward aisle seat.

5) WN is a splendid bus company, they have to board you fast, *and* they don't do any of this. Note that WN explicitly does not cater to the frequent flyer, because that slows them down. They are in the perfect place to "optimize" boarding, and they don't do this.

This is another spectacular case of someone doing something once and assuming they can now tell everyone they can do it better.

We use spherical cows in physics 101 to teach you enough to work the problem with nonspherical cows, then we use them to teach you how to work the real world. You do not fly to the moon using spherical cow physics.

And you don't board airplanes with spherical cows.
posted by eriko at 5:02 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


> Meh. What's the point? You get to your seat two and a half minutes faster, but it's not like the plane is fuelled and de-iced and loaded with luggage and cargo any faster, or the runway is any clearer or anything.

From my flying experience, passengers are usually the things we are waiting for to get seated, as everything else can happen in parallel (fueling, loading cargo, replacing food, etc).

As for getting people in line for boarding, everyone is already queued up in front of the loading area waiting to get on the plane anyway, usually waiting for the plane to be cleaned, so there is plenty of idle time to get passengers lined up / preloaded before getting on. For flights where the connection is close or the plane was delayed coming in, again organizing the passengers pre boarding time is something that would pay off in terms of resources, since you have them at your disposal (and space) while the plane itself has not yet arrived, and trying to organize them once on the plane is more difficult.

Being able to depart from the gate and get in line for take off two minutes earlier can mean the difference making the next connection or avoiding the dreaded noise ordinance curfew where departures have to be staggered every 20 minute after X pm.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:04 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


The only way airplane boarding is going to get better is if you remove the overhead bins for everyone, except the folks in exit rows. You are not allowed to bring anything larger than a purse or ordinary sized backpack on board.

Everything else must be checked, period.

Also, Virgin American makes all the coach passengers march past first class. It's an interesting sensation, being gawked at.
posted by gsh at 5:06 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


> Also, Virgin American makes all the coach passengers march past first class. It's an interesting sensation, being gawked at.

Thats most every airline, or 737 class (Airbus A320, etc) airplane where you board in front of first class. Only 747+ larger planes that have the boarding door behind first/business. In the US there are only a few routes that are large (767) routes, usually JFK -> LAX, where that is normal.

(so many miles, much wow)
posted by mrzarquon at 5:10 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


I like to wait until the line is gone, too. Wait in the chair I'm about to be imprisoned in for 10 hours, or wait where I am? Easy choice.

How not-as-fast would the random method be if they fixed that obvious flaw shown in the video? Nobody in real life voluntarily chooses a middle seat (unless with someone else.) So that's 1/3 more asking the person in the aisle seat to stand up for you.

'Cause the random method seems the most obvious and easy. "Gate's open folks, knock yourself out."
posted by ctmf at 5:19 PM on April 26


I boarding should begin with the administration of a mild tranquilizer. Flying would be much more pleasant if people would just chill out a bit.
posted by humanfont at 5:24 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


As a personal preference, I fly Jet Blue. Patton Oswald has a great skit as to why they are enjoyable, but I'll explain a little bit that he doesn't go into. First, I check my main bag 95% of the time because my bag flies free. Of course, it doesn't, but I'd rather have the cost of the flight ahead of time, and I'll avail myself to the fact that that's the cost of my bag. Then there's the matter of shitty peanuts no longer being on my plane. Well... Jet blue will hand me a shitty bag of chips, pretzels or cookies and really, they'll hand me one of each - which are once again, baked into the cost ahead of time. Plus, they have shitty dunkin donuts coffee on the plane - which may not sound like much, but its my shitty bit of nostalgia and I'd rather finance a little bit of Bain Capital with a taste of nostalgia, then some green druidic figure that hasn't figured out how not to burn her beans. Anyway... off the coffee derail. Then there's the fact that there's Satellite TV, and that means I can sit there and watch some dumb TV show while I'm stuck on a plane for a couple of hours, or put on XM radio and listen to the same 75 '90s songs that they play because that's the decade of music that my cohort listens to. So yeah, bag, food, coffee, tv show with the cost actually all baked in.

So then there's actually the flight attendants. They're cheery, and they know that you don't really want to be there and they are awesome in the fact that its just this shy of, 'yep, we're actually in there together and it sucks for us too.' and comparative to the other airlines that basically have to walk the aisle hawking meals, headphones, and credit card applications - 90% of that has been covered ahead of time. I mean, the jobs aren't that different, but the second you go on stage to a hostile audience and you are asking them for money - your commitment to the job is going to suck and it will reflect on your face - despite a smile. (That's directed at you US Airways!)

Yeah, I assume at some point Jet Blue will disappoint me beyond me liking them, but they haven't yet. Yeah, the non-unionized workforce bugs the snot out of me, but hey - the union ones are getting fucked anyway. Ultimately though, I vote with my flights. If I only have to get to New York, I'll drive - Newark, maybe not so much - but if its Logan to JFK, I'll probably drive...
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:36 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


We were going....somewhere, recentlyish, can't remember where (maybe National back to SFO) and there were boarding groups up to F, but at least one was a null set. It was weird.

I hate all forms of boarding I've encountered because I have no patience for people who seem to dawdle for no fecking reason getting their shit out of their carryon before putting it in the overhead or whatever. Get out of the aisle already you idiot!
posted by rtha at 5:51 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Boarding is slow and inefficient, but usually it's the least slow and inefficient part of the process. Standing in line at security is slow and inefficient, waiting at the gate ditto, and then there's the incredibly aggravating waiting on the tarmac for no apparent reason. Compared to those, boarding from the front or back is small potatoes.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:59 PM on April 26 [6 favorites]


Meh. What's the point? You get to your seat two and a half minutes faster, but it's not like the plane is fuelled and de-iced and loaded with luggage and cargo any faster, or the runway is any clearer or anything.

Because since the airlines have discovered checked luggage as a profit center, as opposed to an included cost like it used to be, everyone seems to want to cram their full-sized suitcase into the overhead bin. If you're lucky, they'll take it to the back with them, but in reality, most of them shove them in the first possible bin.

Which leaves your humble traveller like myself, with a roll-aboard bag that meets standard airline size constraints with either A) nowhere to put a bag at all or B) having to carry a bag all the way to the back of the plane, stow it, and the fight back towards the front and his actual seat.

Now you're right, if I'm travelling casual, with only a backpack that easily goes under the seat, I'll wait until the last possible moment to get on the plane, because why queue up at the check-in, then queue up on the jetway, then line up in the aircraft aisle itself.
posted by madajb at 6:04 PM on April 26


Getting on the plane early means your luggage gets the bin right above your seat, and you get to sit there, a look of smug satisfaction on your face, as the last few jerks roll-aboard, can't find space for their luggage and panic.

To say nothing of all the people who travel with, like, posters of their names done in "Asian" letters, bags of merchandise from the M&M store, oversized leather jackets folded neatly into octahedrons, and trash bags full of what must be clothes hangers.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:27 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Check in Attendant: "Mr. Rhod, you are going to have to assume your individual position."

DJ Ruby Rhod: "I don't want one position, I want all positions!"
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:28 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


The objections in the article to the Steffen Method seem to not understand that tickets are capable of conveying two pieces of information, a boarding number, and then a seat number. They already do this, in terms of having boarding groups, and there's no real reason why they couldn't be more granular to allow for the Steffen Method.

I.e. instead of having Groups 1, 2, and 3 like most airlines, you'd need to have 4+ groups. Maybe you'd want to use letters to distinguish them from seats. (Although seats already have letters, so using pure numbers already has some distinguishing features.)

As for the fact that it's "dehumanizing"? It's fucking airline travel. You're already just two sides of whining, bathroom-using pork as far as the airlines are concerned. Shut up and enjoy your discount fare, America; you get what you're (un)willing to pay for, and it's consumer price-sensitivity-uber-alles that has driven us to these sort of ridiculous ends.

Although, to be fair, there's no American carrier that has plumbed the depths of human decency in search of profit as far as RyanAir.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:28 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


And for gods' sake, empower the flight attendants to just grab a bag and say, "Nope. Too big, plus you're carrying two other bags, so you'll get it at baggage claim."

As someone who's been stopped at the boarding door and forced to gate-check bags that do fit underneath the seat based on a flight attendant's incorrect hunch, I can tell you that they have this power already, and they seldom use it appropriately.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:35 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


And any airplane boarding method that assumes that all passengers are ready to board at the same time, or at any time, is based on a falsehood.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:36 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


When I read about the embedded videos showing "choreographed airplane boarding" for some reason I expected to see dancing and singing - maybe a whole Bollywood-style production.

That would probably still be more efficient than the current system.
posted by Umami Dearest at 6:36 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


Southwest is a close second but the passive aggressive ticket-flashing in the cattle lineup brings out the worst in people.

It's numerical order. 1 comes before 2 comes before 3. It's about as easy as anything can be.

Yesterday I was A12 (my job pays some extra bucks for me to board early and get a seat I like). A guy about 5 spots ahead of me in line was turned back by the gate attendant because he had A20. People suck.

I've thought that Southwest's computers should watch for line jumpers when they scan your boarding pass. If you show a pattern of jumping more than 3 or 4 places in line, they start adding a penalty to your number when you check in. And the computer begins buzzing loudly when it scans your out of order ticket.
posted by jjwiseman at 6:42 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]


I always try to get the furthest-back row in the plane, because most people don't choose that, so if the plane isn't full, I tend to get double seats. Also, people don't think to walk back a few rows to put their bags in the overhead bins...they tend to just go forward.

I wish they'd redesign planes to have the bins directly under the seats, so everybody got their own.
posted by xingcat at 6:42 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


I always order another drink in the terminal when they start boarding my flight and then stroll up to the gate just as they are saying "absolute final boarding call."

Of course, I have never flown an airline with unassigned seats and I never travel with more than can fit under the seat in front of me, so this works out for me.

I can't imagine the chaos that would be caused if everyone converted to this method though.
posted by 256 at 6:43 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


The thing that drives me nuttier than boarding or unloading is the inevitable clusterfuck of Important People (TM) who crowd the gate long before their boarding group is called. It's bad enough to navigate -and clearly adds to the chaos and delay - when you're able-bodied.

And if you're in an Aircast or traveling with a recently broken and still very delicate back (but have declined the handicapped assist) or so many other non-obvious challenges .... good god, people can be straight-up dicks.

t
posted by Dashy at 6:44 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


people who seem to dawdle for no fecking reason getting their shit out of their carryon before putting it in the overhead or whatever

these are the same shitstains who stand in line for 20 minutes ahead of you at starbucks and when they finally get to the register they still fucking haven't decided what it is they want or how they are going to pay

i am going to need so many wicker mans
posted by elizardbits at 7:07 PM on April 26 [8 favorites]


Also, Virgin American makes all the coach passengers march past first class. It's an interesting sensation, being gawked at.

But! It gives you a chance to look over all the first-class passengers and wonder which ones you would eat first in a Alive kind of situation.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:11 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


But! It gives you a chance to look over all the first-class passengers and wonder which ones you would eat first in a Alive kind of situation.

The last time I flew, I got upgraded to first class on my last leg. I definitely had the feeling that I was being assessed for snacking potential by the people shuffling by me as I sipped my free alcoholic beverage.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:40 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Also, Virgin American makes all the coach passengers march past first class. It's an interesting sensation, being gawked at.

I save my farts for moments like that.

Who I am kidding? I am continuously farting.

Those are ones I particularly enjoy though.
posted by srboisvert at 7:52 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


All this and yet no one has suggested outfitting the aisle of the plane with a Slip-n-Slide?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:26 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


What's with all the misplaced outrage toward people who carry their baggage onto the plane? You guys know that the airlines charge to check bags now right??
posted by nzero at 8:31 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


I don't mind people bringing their luggage at all, but I have been baffled every single time I have flown in the last five years at the number of people who want to bring on the largest possible carry-on bag, and then will stand there obstructing traffic staring at the thing dumbly when it fails to fit into the overhead compartment the direction they've tried to shove it in. Like they've not only never played Tetris, but fail to grasp in any fashion that perhaps those maximum size regulations mean that there is one particular direction the bags will actually fit in the compartments.

Inevitably the flight attendants end up rearranging everything after the fact to make it all fit, and I wonder why they don't just save us all the time and collect all the bags ahead of time and do it themselves in the first place.

But, seriously, if you have a full-size bag and the way you've put it in the compartment leaves a good 8+ inches of space between it and the edge, it is probably going the wrong direction.
posted by Sequence at 8:42 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


This is waaay too complicated. My personal solution is to take off all my clothes, slather myself with oil and then run down the ramp screaming into the plane. Those f*cking passengers get out of my way pronto because no one wants to get close to Naked Oily Guy.
posted by storybored at 8:51 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]


> The only way airplane boarding is going to get better is if you remove the overhead bins for everyone, except the folks in exit rows. You are not allowed to bring anything larger than a purse or ordinary sized backpack on board.

Haha no way am I ever checking any luggage ever again. I could either stand gawking at a conveyer belt at other people's ugly luggage for half an hour, or I could walk by and get straight to the train and leave the stupid airport. Protip: Your roller bag will almost certainly fit under your seat on most planes. If not, get a better bag.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:06 PM on April 26


There are three categories of difficult people with carry-on luggage issues:

1. People with genuinely odd, sensitive or delicate items that should not be checked (Stradivarius violin, etc.).

2. People who either have not flown in the last thirty years, or are just breathtakingly ignorant and have no idea what is involved in boarding a plane.

3. Insufferable cheapskates who are trying to save a $25 checked bag fee for themselves while ruining everyone else's day.

I have sympathy for persons in category 1. People in categories 2 and 3 deserve to be sucked into a jet engine like that guy in the premiere episode of Lost.
posted by gimonca at 9:07 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


The oddest boarding system I've ever see was when I flew I flew from Seattle to New York the Friday before the Super Bowl, on Alaska.

First they boarded first class passengers. Then anyone wearing a Russell Willson shirt. Then anyone in any Seahawks gear at all. Then me and my family. And that was it.

I'm not saying it was a good system, but it was an interesting one.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:10 PM on April 26 [8 favorites]


Is the checked bag fee like tipping now? If you can't afford tpnpay 25 bucks to check your grandfather clock you shouldn't be flying?
posted by Carillon at 9:20 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


On trans-Pacific flights I prefer to get on the plane earlier than anyone else in order to ensure there is in the overhead bins for our family's carry-ons.

When flying with my family I prefer to have as few carry-on items as possible, because it is too stressful to carry a bunch of stuff through several airports. However, we have several laptops and those have to come with us, and I hate to have my carry-on out of sight on the plane.

But I try to travel as lightly as possible.

When travelling city to city on a regional turboprop it doesn't matter, since there is "sky check", where you can leave your carry-on baggage on the tarmac to be loaded onto a plane. They're pretty gentle with it, so I can just bring any laptops on in a small cloth shopping bag to put under the seat.

When I travel by myself (typically for business) I try to travel as lightly as possible, and actually bring everything with me instead of checking in luggage, in order to save time and get out of the airport.

I hate bringing carry-on, but with a family I have to, and I hate it when other people hog all the space in the overhead bins.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


I checked a bag on a flight from SFO to PDX and it disappeared for five goddamn days. How??!! It was a direct flight! Less than two hours!

So no, I don't check bags if I can help it. If the gate crew begs nicely, I consider it (also it's free when that happens). Otherwise, no.
posted by rtha at 9:26 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


That "free when that happens" thing is so ridiculous. If you check your larger-than-carry-on bag when you're supposed to, you pay $25. If you bring it all the way onto the plane and try to cram it in an overhead bin and it doesn't fit, you get it checked for free. Bah!
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:29 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


You all are scaring me with these tales of checked bags vanishing. I have traveled about twice a month for work for the past two years and never had a problem. Obviously my turn is coming.

It is the case that my checked bags are always clearly riffled through to the point I don't even bother locking them. If people want to search my socks for hidden things to steal, that's their wasted time.
posted by winna at 9:31 PM on April 26


But see, corpse, my bag is legal carryon size! Fits fine in the overhead. I just don't want it to vanish again if I can help it.
posted by rtha at 9:34 PM on April 26


Clearly I don't mean you, rtha. I mean bad people.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:38 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


I hate them too! Fie on the bad people!
posted by rtha at 9:39 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


I personally would like to be knocked unconscious for any flight longer than four hours. They could then wheel me on to the plane. They could devise some sort of stacked stretcher plane for long haul flights, then slide people in like sleeping books on bookshelves.

Although it seems like it would take more time to knock a plane full of people unconscious, it would actually save time. You'd knock them out at check in, therefore no need for security line (security procedures, of which there would be fewer, could be done while people are unconscious). Customs and immigration is done on walkabout while the plane wakes up. No food service or bathroom breaks required.

Main problem would be stacking up the unconscious passengers without tangling the lines. Surely this must be solvable.

I look forward to flying unconscious Airlines.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:59 PM on April 26 [5 favorites]


I never carry a bag on anymore, other than my computer bag. Granted, I usually take a big bag since I’m usually going to be gone a while, but even when it’s a small one there’s no way I’m going to haul it all over the airport, on to the plane, off the plane, and back through the airport when for $25 bucks or free someone else will do it for me. I don’t put anything I can’t live without, like my computer, in there though.

I only fly less than a dozen times a year, but I’ve only had a bag lost once. They knew it was lost by the time I got to the luggage area and told me to go home and they’d deliver it, which they did within a few hours. It was there when I woke up. I don’t even live anywhere near the airport.
posted by bongo_x at 10:15 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


I look forward to flying unconscious Airlines.

I prefer Burning Airlines. They give you so much more.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:23 PM on April 26


1. Get an osprey carryon or similar
2. Learn to pack it
posted by mrzarquon at 10:48 PM on April 26


How'dya get the cat in there?
posted by smidgen at 10:57 PM on April 26


Practice
posted by mrzarquon at 11:03 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


So what's the deal with Delta boarding flights that are less full than expected? They say that they can't accommodate everyone's luggage if the flight isn't full, so they're going to board carry-on free folks first and start bumping people once the plane is too heavy. If you're stupid enough to obey, then once you finally board you see that every overhead bin was filled by a self-satisfied asshole who boarded as "carry-on free". The gate agents don't stop them because the folks who behave that way will cause a lot more trouble for them than the folks who follow instructions.

Moral of the story: algorithms are cute but airlines are optimized to extract as much money from you for as little service as possible. As a passenger, you should optimize the opposite way: get yourself and your essential stuff on the airplane as soon as possible. If someone impedes you for BS reasons, be just resistant enough that it becomes too much work for them to screw you over.

This is why I left pure CS... Modeling human systems is such wasted effort when the behavior of actual humans isn't considered.
posted by SakuraK at 12:10 AM on April 27


Much worse than boarding is waiting to deplane. People seem utterly incapable of standing up, getting heir bag(s) and then walking out the door. It's mystifying.

Planes have two doors, right? Why do we have to deplane by one door, everyone filing out through one goddamn door? Gates should be equipped with two tunnels for boarding and deboarding--that's the solution. It's an infrastructure thing.

As for boarding, I always wait till the very end, until the gate attendants start giving me the stink eye. No matter how long I tally, though, I still have to wait in that damn aisle, quietly jealous of and trying not to look at how nice first class is.
posted by zardoz at 1:09 AM on April 27


This is why I left pure CS...

Scheduling access to resources when you can't guarantee consumers will behave well is an extremely pure CS problem.

And any computer scientist can tell you that keeping groups together in an otherwise Steffen-ordered boarding schedule will not change the amount of resource contention, so there's no need to split up passenger groups.
posted by Phssthpok at 1:44 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]


Yet another boarding scheme that ignores reality.

1) Most airlines reward frequent flyers to keep then flying that airline. They get to board first, because they want overhead space...

2) ...and they don't sit in the back.


Yep, pretty much this. If you've flown American Airlines recently, the recent merge with US Airways has created a pre-boarding scene of comedic proportions.

In theory, if you have "Zone 1" on your boarding pass you will be among the first group to board, except that First Class goes first and then Executive Platinum, Platinum, Gold, Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby,then Business class, then Priority Access members (along with anyone who used the Citi Platinum Select OneWorld Visa Signature Card to pay for their tickets).

That's just for American, I left out the legacy US Airways frequent flying categories which adds another 1/2 dozen groups or so. The checkout agents get bonuses for keeping a straight face I'm pretty sure.

So yes, approximately 1/3 -1/2 the plane is full before Zone 1 is called.
posted by jeremias at 6:46 AM on April 27


Much worse than boarding is waiting to deplane. People seem utterly incapable of standing up, getting heir bag(s) and then walking out the door. It's mystifying.

Yes. For this problem, I suggest the Caltrans approach. They have tow trucks pre-positioned to rapidly remove breakdowns during rush hour, this is claimed to save millions of hours of traffic delays per year. I suggest that airlines have flight attendant/bouncers prepositioned to removed obstacle deplaners.

Example: I am at SeaTac, returning from months in Japan. I am way in the back of the plane. 30 minutes before landing, Customs forms were handed out, with strict instructions to have your passport in your hand while deplaning. I knew this was coming, so my passport has been in my shirt pocket for the entire flight.

Everyone in the front 2/3 has been taking their goddam time deplaning, as usual. Everyone in my section has been standing in the aisles for about 10 minutes, passport in hand, carryon luggage in hand, waiting for the aisles to clear. Just as our section is ready to deplane, a short, fat, bald American and his wife stand in the aisles and toss their luggage into a seat, and start tearing through their luggage, looking for their passports. They are completely blocking the aisle. This goes on and on for about 5 minutes, the entire plane is empty except our compartment in the back.

Now in Japan, if someone is blocking your exit on mass transit, you merely declare "orimasu" (I'm getting off) and the other person gets out of your way. I am about to say this out of habit, but I translate into English, "pardon me, could you make way for people to exit?" Response: "What did you call me?!?!" They guy wanted to start a fight. "I said, could you please clear the aisle so we can exit?" The guy exploded with anger, his wife was mortified and tried to get him to focus on finding their goddam passports. Meanwhile the people started to get the message, this aisle was going nowhere so they all started sliding through the middle seats to get to the other (relatively unblocked) aisle. Ah, but sometimes there is instant karma. As I went through Customs, I noticed the aisle-blocker got subjected to a complete baggage search, which must have delayed him at least another 30 minutes. The Customs agent merely checked off a box on my form and passed me right through.

This particular situation seemed so unfamiliar, after spending months on Japanese transit systems, which are extremely orderly. Traffic density is so high that cultural systems have evolved around making ingress and egress fast and efficient. The worst possible thing you could do would be to block an aisle and inconvenience dozens of other people. But no, I'm back in the US where people are stupid and don't ever think about the inconvenience they are causing for others.

My personal opinion is that flight attendants should carry special equipment to assist in deplaning: truncheons and whips.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:06 AM on April 27 [7 favorites]


@elizardbits Favourited for "entire fucking chiffarobe."
posted by HillbillyInBC at 9:48 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]


But no, I'm back in the US where people are stupid and don't ever think about the inconvenience they are causing for others.

On a related topic; I was the asshole American in London years ago when I realized if you are on the escalator and not walking you stand to the right side, and let people walk down the left side. I thought this was great, but there’s no way in hell that’s happening in the States. People would rather fight you than let you pass.
posted by bongo_x at 10:16 AM on April 27


@bongo_x, stand on the right/walk on the left is the cardinal rule of the DC Metro system, and woe be unto the tourists who don't pick up on that fact quickly.
posted by evoque at 10:50 AM on April 27 [4 favorites]


Same for NYC, though the tourists tend to ruin it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:00 PM on April 27


As an eight year old child afraid of downward escalators I was a bit slow getting on the Metro escalator and I have a vivid memory of my father yelling in terror and hoisting me up by the armpits to avoid the rush of commuters happy to shove a little girl down the left side of the Union Station escalator. They didn't even blink. I learned that lesson fast. Still very American of them all, though, come to think of it.
posted by Mizu at 1:43 PM on April 27


The only way airplane boarding is going to get better is if you remove the overhead bins for everyone, except the folks in exit rows. You are not allowed to bring anything larger than a purse or ordinary sized backpack on board.

Everything else must be checked, period.


So, no sick people with medical supplies allowed, then?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:53 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


$25 is a stupidly large amount of money for checked bags, especially considering you have to also spend extra time waiting for it and risk it getting lost. I have a little pink carry-on suitcase, way smaller than the "maximum" size, and I've only had trouble when assholes with fucking GIGANTIC suitcases have taken up space first. I only am willing to check bags if I'm bringing a bunch of stuff that's not legal to take on board, IE mass amounts of green chile.
posted by NoraReed at 1:55 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


So, no sick people with medical supplies allowed, then?

No, they must fly in the special cooty wagon. Also the babies. And the people who are unable to calculate the correct amount of cologne to be socially acceptable.
posted by elizardbits at 2:14 PM on April 27 [4 favorites]


And anyone who has recently eaten lutefisk.
posted by elizardbits at 2:14 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]


I have mild Spastic Paraparesis.

One thing I've learned on air travel is to always, *always* claim the Disabled/Special Population boarding privilege, either on my ticket or at the gate. Because, while it may not look obvious while looking at me (even with a cane or walking poles), travel always takes more energy out of me. And even if I do conserve my energy, I have to pop Baclofen like Dr. House pops Vicoden to prevent being a completely exhausted, twitchy mess at the end of the day. Sometimes, that happens anyways.

Boarding early so I have time to sort my carryon helps alleviate that, even if only for a very little bit, because it gives me more time to get situated, and in the case of Southwest, gets me a coveted window seat, so I can lean against it and nap. I also take advantage of the gate checkin of my backpack, if it's offered, for the same reason. So, if you have a condition that can be aggravated by the stress and exertion of traveling, take full advantage of that. That's why it's there.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:35 PM on April 27


Some people in this thread are way too neurotic to fly. If some guy makes you wait 30 seconds, get over it.
posted by signal at 7:05 PM on April 27


I'm with those who wait until the last minute if I have an assigned seat and I have checked my large baggage. Why stand in line to get to something which is guaranteed to be there whenever you arrive?

Most of my travel is on Southwest. I try to get an early number by playing the "check in online exactly 24 hours before the flight" game. When they began monetizing early boarding numbers, they made a change which in some ways made A group numbers worse. Back in the day, families with small children boarded first. Then the A group passengers boarded next and could avoid them if desired. Now they board between the A and B groups such that you can get a nice A group number, board early, have your choice of seats, then have the babies and seat kickers sit right next to you. Curmudgeonly, I realize, but the previous method was better for both parents (more seating choices) and those who wish to keep their distance.
posted by Warren Terra at 1:12 AM on April 28


You all are scaring me with these tales of checked bags vanishing.

A friend in Japan travelled to San Francisco. When she got back to Japan she discovered here underwear had been stolen from her suitcase.

In Canada and Japan I have pretty much absolute trust that this sort of thing won't happen, but when going through the States I make sure there are absolutely no valuables in my checked luggage. I doubt anyone wants my jockey shorts, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:47 AM on April 28


Everything I hear about Southwest makes me wish they flew in my area.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:41 AM on April 28


3. Insufferable cheapskates who are trying to save a $25 checked bag fee for themselves while ruining everyone else's day.

Or you know, poor people.
posted by nzero at 1:05 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Poor people are standing outside in the cold and rain at Snelling and University in St. Paul waiting for the Megabus to take them to Milwaukee. They have much bigger problems than this. The bag fee slouchers that I see are entitled bootstrappy exurbanites trying to squeeze one more skinny dime out for themselves.

In a perfect world, the airlines wouldn't engage in these pricing shenanigans. Until that perfect world comes: people need to pay the damn fee. $500 was the price for the base ticket. The real world cost of the ticket is $525. Do it.
posted by gimonca at 1:25 PM on April 28


Until that perfect world comes: people need to pay the damn fee.
Or, alternately, they could weigh the cost of slightly inconveniencing a handful of people who will, oh no!, have to wait an extra 30" before sitting down in their seat, and decide it's less than $25, which could, say, buy them a meal at wherever it is they're going or let them take a taxi instead of a bus into town, and decide to weather the stern looks from said inconvenienced people.
posted by signal at 2:14 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


Honestly, just the time you'll personally save not having to wait for your luggage probably makes up for the aggregate time anyone would spend waiting for you to stow it up there, which generally only takes about a half minute. Not to mention the tradeoff with risk of luggage getting lost. I have a lot of travel-related anxiety and really am not interested in being worried about airlines losing my suitcase. But, again, I carry a pretty small case and have not really had many issues with it; usually someone is even willing to help lift it up for me if it is heavy from being 50% full of tortillas.
posted by NoraReed at 2:18 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


if it is heavy from being 50% full of tortillas

Ha ha, we do this too.
posted by nzero at 7:11 PM on April 28


It would seem the people who take 30 seconds to stow their bag are not the ones being complained about. There seems to be some sort of lack of understanding here.
posted by bongo_x at 8:09 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: heavy from being 50% full of tortillas.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:05 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


It's about individual jerks who put themselves over the entire process, over people who need to make connections, over the frontline staff who need to push the plane away from the gate. Ask a gate agent or flight attendant some time about the questions they face when a plane leaves a couple of seconds late--it's not pretty. We've managed to create a situation that turns one idiot into a misery-creation machine for dozens and dozens of people.
posted by gimonca at 5:25 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


It's about individual jerks who put themselves over the entire process

So much of the unpleasantness of being human boils down to this.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:01 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


What Inefficient Airline Boarding Procedures Have To Do With Net Neutrality
posted by homunculus at 11:05 AM on May 2


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