I’ve always liked boarding planes via airstairs. Yes, it’s true that part of the fun is that I get to walk by the engine and watch all the action, but there’s more to it. I’ve always been happy to use those rear stairs. Using two doors instead of one means people can get out twice as quickly, so it should help make things more pleasant for the passengers as well as speeding things up for the airline.
JetBlue often uses airstairs in the rear even when it has a jetbridge up front. Southwest has experimented with dual jetbridges at Albany, but they’ve haven’t expanded the program so it must not have worked as well as they hoped in speeding up the boarding process.
Now United has decided to get in on the action as well. This has been in the works since before I left United last year, so I’m glad to see it finally come to fruition. If you’re flying on Ted (United’s lame “low cost” carrier) in Denver, you might have a chance to use this crazy contraption:
As you can see, there are two bridges to the aircraft at gate B15. One of the biggest concerns about these second bridges in the past has been that you have to carefully navigate it over the wing so that it doesn’t break anything. That required a little too much trust for the airlines considering the costs that could result from a runaway bridge. This new bridge, however, is entirely automated. It works on most narrowbody aircraft, and using sensors, it finds its own way to the back door.
The only question now is whether or not they can improve boarding times enough to justify the expense of the new bridge. If things speed up enough to squeeze another flight out of that airplane during the day, it will quickly pay for itself.