How Gatwick Airport Managed To Cut Boarding Times By 10%

A new two-month trial has begun at London’s Gatwick airport with the hopes of successfully cutting boarding times by 10%. Working with easyJet, the new boarding method recently allowed staff to board 158 passengers in just 14 minutes, a whole two minutes faster than the average time.

Empty boarding lounge and easyjet aeroplane
A new boarding method trialed with easyJet has cut boarding times by 10%. Photo: Gatwick Airport

Cutting through the frustration

I’m sure we’ve all been there; you’ve starting boarding, you’ve waited on the tarmac, you’re finally on the plane and you can see your seat. But now there’s someone coming down the aisle towards you, bags in hand, holding everyone up. It’s very frustrating.

But fear not, for the stress of boarding may soon be at an end. Gatwick Airport and easyJet are trialling a new boarding method to help reduce both the time and stress it takes you to get to your seat.

The new method involves calling people who have window seats to board first, followed by those with middle seats and finally those who have aisle seats, starting at the back and moving forward. This will reduce the time we spend stood in the aircraft aisle getting irritated and waiting for others to find their seats.

New Boarding Method Infographic
The new boarding method will see passengers with window seats boarding first. Photo: Gatwick Airport

The new method, affectionately named boarding bingo by those who have experienced it so far, has successfully managed to cut boarding times by 10% compared to traditional methods.

Sounds great, especially with Gatwick hoping to open up a second runway and boost passenger numbers. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

A few hiccups along the way

The tests have so far revealed that the window-to-aisle method of boarding is only suited to individuals and business passengers and that families and groups would have to be treated differently. The BBC reports that groups will be boarded by row in order to prevent separation, particularly with young families.

In a statement, Gatwick said that different boarding methods would be used “depending on the passenger make up on any individual flight – number of families, individual travelers, etc.”

But don’t be alarmed, if you pay for priority boarding or require special assistance, you will still be able to board first.

In addition, rather than using the traditional audio announcements to inform passengers when they can board, Gatwick and easyJet are trialing the use of large digital screens which will let passengers board when their seat number is projected, hence the somewhat amusing nickname; Boarding Bingo.

Boarding should be more organized in future. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The statement from the airport continues; “By communicating to passengers better and boarding passengers by seat number, we also expect to make the whole boarding experience more relaxing and, potentially, prevent large numbers of passenger[s] rushing forward at any stage.”

Simple Flying also received a quote from easyJet regarding the initiative,

“We continually look at different technologies and innovations which could make customer journeys easier. Gatwick is our largest base and they approached us about commencing a boarding trial. A small number of easyJet flights that use Gate 101 are taking part in the trial initially.”

But is this something everyone can expect in the future? Will we all be playing Boarding Bingo on our next flight? Well, easyJet continued by saying that “this isn’t something we are looking to implement across our network but will work with Gatwick to study the results of their trial when it closes.”

Queing to get to seat on airplane
Standing up and queueing in the aisle will be a thing of the past. Photo: Henry Burrows Via Flickr

What would make your experience better?

This is not the first time airports and airlines have tried to improve the boarding process. In September of this year, Emirates became the first international airline to implement Biometric boarding in an attempt to speed up boarding times and United Airlines recently announced they are overhauling their boarding process in order to speed up turnaround times.

With the Evening Standard calling for other airlines to also take part in the initiative, we’ve been wondering, what would make your boarding experience more positive? Let us know in the comments.

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Tadhg O'Donovan

This sounds awful and in line with the shocking customer experience at Gatwick.