Airlines are constantly experimenting with new, more efficient ways to board airplanes. A faster turnaround time on the ground means more on-time flights, which translates to better revenue for the carrier. So anything that they can do to speed up the process is in their best interest. Oh – and if it makes the process easier for the passengers then that’s a decent side benefit as well.
Back in March, our friend Johnny Jet was the first to report on a new strategy that American Airlines was testing to hasten the whole boarding process. Coming soon, passengers without overhead bags will be allowed to board the plane prior to other (but after preferred) passengers. With no bags, they can quickly disburse onto the plane and into their seats without clogging the aisle. The next batch of passengers with bags will hopefully then be less hindered when loading.
The policy is being widely implemented and reported right now. How much will it speed up the process? American claims that this will save about two minutes a flight, though that average is spread across thousands of flights in which millions of permutations of boarding issues (full overhead bins, surly passengers, surly crew) can occur. Given the wide statistical nature of the process, passengers probably register much of a difference in timing.
What they will notice is a slight modification to the boarding zones, though this change still wont relieve the gate lice congestion. If American could come up with a solution for that problem, we’d be impressed.