The Way We Board Airplanes Is in Need of an Upgrade
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Airline travel is the worst – a fact I’d conveniently forgotten until a recent domestic flight.
To avoid the $25 luggage fee, I’d stuffed a carry-on suitcase to the brim, as had almost everyone else in economy. Understandably eager to fit luggage inside the limited overhead space, an anxious group of passengers formed around the boarding area; each time a new boarding zone was called, chaos ensued as people fought their way to get their tickets scanned. Despite fully participating in the boarding frenzy, I wasn’t fast enough. By the time I made it to my seat, the overhead space was gone, meaning I had to stuff my suitcase above a seat a few rows back. It was hardly an ideal setup. When the plane landed, getting my suitcase was tricky -- “you’re a salmon swimming upstream,” a helpful stranger remarked – and, after hours stuck in a cramped, impossibly small middle seat, I was a grumpy, frazzled mess.
Boarding an airplane is objectively frustrating, largely because the way we do it makes no sense. While there are many different strategies for loading passengers, most carriers use the back-to-front approach. Unfortunately, it’s not a great one: timed research has shown that random board actually ends up being faster.
The central problem, however, is the plane’s setup. The boarding process would be substantially improved if airlines invested in letting people enter from both ends of the plane. Or redesigned the cabin itself.
Related: How to Never Fly Coach Again
To that end Ugur Ipek, a German transport designer, has come up with a cabin layout that he claims would make boarding more efficient and less stressful for travelers. Shaped like a cigar, passengers would enter the cabin via two double doors located in the center of the plane, vastly reducing the average distance someone must cover to reach his or her seat. In addition, the cabin would be wider in the center of the plane, allowing passengers seated in the front and back to easily move past those seated in the middle who are putting up their luggage and getting settled, before tapering off at either end.
The model – dubbed the CIGAR concept – was originally commissioned by Airbus Hamburg nearly 10 years ago, Skift reports. But while the CIGAR model is up for a Crystal Cabin Award this year, it’s not likely the design will be realized anytime soon. “The feedback was very positive. Plans were big. But at the moment, Airbus is not developing any new aircraft,” Ipek told the outlet.
Sadly, while there are likely more efficient boarding methods that can be instated without a cabin redesign – such as an “out-side in” approach, which allows travelers in window seats to board first -- most carriers aren’t incentivized to implement them. As The New Yorker and Bloomberg have pointed out, airlines rack in money from extra fees, and the stress of the current boarding process is an excellent tool to get people to pay extra for small dignities like boarding in the “fast lane,” leaving those of us unwilling to take the bait side-eyeing each other as we wait for our boarding zone to be called.