Good things to know when preparing for your flight: Boarding
Boarding the Aircraft
While air travel has become increasingly accessible in recent years, many of the processes surrounding flying remain somewhat confusing. In large part, this is due to many airlines having unique procedures for accomplishing the same tasks. For example, boarding the plane, or moving from the waiting area into the aircraft to take your seat, is a common task – all flyers must go through boarding in order to take a seat. But some airlines have different approaches to getting this done in a smooth and efficient manner. The goal of all airlines is to get the passengers onto the flights as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Airlines have seating limitation rules in effect which define the number of seats available in each service cabin (first class, business class, economy plus, economy, and so on), define who may or may not sit in an emergency exit row, and may predefine seats for flying unaccompanied minors. Generally, the number of seats available is in inverse proportion to the cost; first class service has the highest cost, and the lowest number of seats, followed by business class. Emergency exit rows are reserved for those people who are over 15 years of age and agree to assist crewmembers and other passengers in case of any flight emergency. These seats offer additional legroom, but the reclining mechanism of the seat in exit rows may be disabled.
The Boarding Process
With some airlines, general boarding is called by boarding group numbers, shown on the boarding pass, while other airlines may board by row numbers. The staff at the boarding gate normally have the flight boarding information posted on an information stand nearby, or will be happy to explain the process. Hand baggage should also be considered, as stowing personal items is a major contributor to blocked aisle-ways inside the aircraft and can easily delay flight departure. Airlines establish size and weight limits for the carry-on baggage of each passenger, but these are only loosely enforced, normally. When the boarding group or row number is called, the passengers queue up and board the aircraft.
Airlines offer pre-boarding opportunities with two aims in mind. First, there is pre-boarding for people travelling with small children or for people with limited mobility. People with small children may have prams or additional bags to stow, which can slow down the boarding process. Allowing them to go first prevents a backlog during general boarding. Those with limited mobility may simply need additional time in order to clear the boarding ramp and the aisles in the aircraft. A second aim is to reward the passengers with high airline loyalty or with high fare tickets (first class and business class). Offering pre-boarding ensures further loyalty and equates a higher level of service with the higher fares.
The term quick boarding can have more than one concept. In one instance, this may refer to using multiple jet ways (boarding ramps) to load passengers to the aircraft through front and rear doors simultaneously. This means that those passengers seated in the rear of the aircraft would not have to manoeuvre through the entire aisle, but only a portion, thereby speeding up the general boarding. A second instance of the term refers to the increasing use of technology by some airlines to speed up the boarding process. At least one airline has instituted automatic gates (without an attendant) so that you may board with your pre-printed boarding pass and cut short the review by an attendant.
Last Boarding Time
The boarding time for any flight is normally shown directly on the boarding pass. Under most conditions, this is the time that boarding will begin. Also shown on the boarding pass is the flight departure time. Airlines have established flight rules defining the time difference between flight departure time and the time that the aircraft doors will be closed, typically 20 to 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. Most airlines allow flight boarding up to the door closure time, but it is recommended that all passengers are typically at the gate area at least 40 minutes prior to the scheduled flight departure.
Refusal of Transportation
In rare cases, an airline may refuse to allow a passenger to board a flight at the gate. These cases would typically include a passenger’s refusal to be searched or screened at security, an inability to show adequate identification, or lacking the correct credentials (visa, for example) for an international destination. The pilot and crew also have some discretion here, and may deny boarding to any person who they feel presents a threat to the safety of the crew, other passengers, or the aircraft and its cargo. A passenger who is clearly intoxicated, under the influence of drugs, or very disorderly may also be fairly denied boarding.
Like many other aspects of air travel, the flight boarding process is in a continual state of improvement. Airlines are working to improve the speed and comfort of this process to ensure repeat business and higher levels of customer satisfaction.