February 9, 2017.   Boarding Blues.

It never ceases to amaze me, traveling in other parts of the world, how much quicker and smoother the boarding process seems to go. In Asia, for instance, I’ve seen them board 500 passengers onto an A380 in under thirty minutes. How do they do it? Here at home, it takes 45 minutes to get 70 people onto a damn regional jet, and it’s chaos the entire time.

Well, how they do it is, for one, by using bigger planes. In Asia, even a 45-minute hop is often aboard a widebody 777 or A330. Widebody planes, with multiple aisles and all-around greater spaciousness, are by their nature easier to get on and off. In the U.S., aircraft size has been steadily shrinking over the past two decades. More people are flying than ever before, it’s true, but we’re doing it on smaller planes: regional jets, A319s, 737s and the like. The reasons for this are a subject for another time, but the narrow aisles and limited bin space on these planes mean longer boarding and deplaning times.

Another thing is that most airports outside the U.S. will board and deplane a widebody jet through multiple doors using multiple boarding bridges — at least two, and sometimes even three. (In Amsterdam, KLM boards its 747s using two forward bridges, plus a unique, over-the-wing bridge that connects to the rear fuselage.) This makes a massive difference in how long it takes to move hundreds of people, and their hundreds of bags, between the terminal and the cabin. Dual-bridge boarding does exist in the United States, but it’s uncommon.

Overwing jet bridge, Amsterdam.   Author’s photo.


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