It happens to air travelers everyday, on every fight. The eternal struggle to find space for your carrier-on bags.
It is becoming common place for airlines to charge fees for extra luggage. In some cases (pun intended), they charge for ALL luggage. Folks everywhere have countered these bloated charges by hauling more, and larger cases on board the aircraft. With on-board space being at a premium, travelers have become more intent on being the first on board the plane.
Understanding how airlines board their guests is key in securing the elusive ‘early boarding’. This way, you can store those bags, sit back, and enjoy the latest issue of SkyMall. Or, enjoy the Broadway calibre show starring hoards of already jaded passengers fighting for last 2 inches of over-head space.
Here’s a look at most major domestic and international carriers and how they bored their aircraft. Understanding this will help you begin your voyage relaxed, and without bruises. Please note, most air carriers will board their ‘elite’, or upper-class passengers first, followed by passengers with special needs.
The Outside-In Boarding Process: Also known as WilMA – Window, Middle, Aisle. After the elite have boarded, guests with reserved window seats will be allowed on board, followed by the middle, and finally the aisle dwellers. It looks like this:
Random Boarding: Random boarding is simple – the earlier you check in, the closer to the front of the line you will be. Southwest, for example, will use the A Group, B Group, and C Group boarding – with A going first, and so-on down the line. If you want the coveted A Group, check in early. On-line check-in opens 24 hours prior to departure, so be sure to check-in close to that mark. If you wait until you get to the airport, count on being in C.
- US Airways
Rotating Zone Boarding: Passengers in the last 5 rows will board first, followed by guests in the first five rows, and moving again to the back. When using these airlines, being in a middle row means you will board last. It looks like this:
- AirTran (This will likely change to random when Southwest takes full control of AirTran)
Zone Boarding: The aircraft will be divided into ‘zones’, or ‘blocks’. It looks like this:
Passengers are always boarded back-to-front. The last 10 rows will board, followed by the next 10 and so-on.
Rear to Front Boarding: The most straight-forward aircraft boarding. Upper classes, and special needs will board first, following by passengers in the back of the aircraft moving toward the front. This is the most common, and organized boarding patter.
- Air Canada
- British Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
Until next time – Travel Well, my friends.