US Airways Ditches Scientific Boarding for the Cattle Call

In last week’s internal company newsletter, US Airways noted that it was switching up its boarding US Airways New Boarding Systemprocess. They’ve gone back to basics. Instead of trying to figure out the best way to board from a time-saving perspective, they’re just gonna let people fight it out.

The new plan is similar to what Northwest does, though I’m not sure if that’s changed under the Delta regime. In short, important people board first, and then everyone else gets to board together in the back. They’ve actually made it much more complicated than that. Here’s the new hierarchy:

  • Slow Pokes (Pre-boarding) – Those who need help boarding (disabled or old) or those with kids under 5

  • Really Important – Premium cabin passengers and top tier elite members (excludes Silver)

  • Sort of Important – Silver elite members, US Airways credit card holders, and people who paid for premium coach seats (exit row, etc)

  • Not Important but Cheaper to Process – those who check-in online

  • Not Important and More Expensive to Process – everyone else

Seems like a lot of groups to me. The only major thing here that we haven’t seen before is that those who check-in online get to board ahead of those who don’t. It’s a nice little incentive that I would think might help push people to go online. That’s the goal, of course, since it’s cheaper for the airline.

But what’s significant here is that they’ve completely abandoned any sort of science in trying to board people in the quickest way. The old system was called the “Reverse Pyramid” which, besides being a move you’d probably like to see a cheerleader make, also, according to research performed by ASU, was the fastest way to board. Maybe US Airways has decided that it feels the same way about ASU as the Daily Show does.

More likely, however, is that they’d carved out so many exceptions that it didn’t actually help much anymore. See the reverse pyramid plan starts with windows in the back, then windows in the middle and middles in the back, and then windows up front, middles in the middle, and aisles in the back, etc.

In the last few years, so many exceptions popped up that allowed early boarding that the benefits of using the reverse pyramid have probably disappeared. So now they’ll just scrap the system and let the peons fight it out.

[Original Image from Mauricio Santana (Tux) via Flickr]

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