After testing the concept over the past few months with promising results, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines introduced Smart Boarding earlier this month, which has purportedly significantly reduced the amount of time needed to board passengers onto its airplanes due to less congestion and interference aboard the aircraft.
According to FlyerTalk member Gajan, the Smart Boarding procedure operates as follows:
Upon entering the gate area, each passenger scans his or her boarding pass. The computer provides a number which determines the boarding sequence of passengers. Once boarding of the aircraft has started, the number on the monitor determines which number is called — and only then is the passenger allowed to board.
Passengers with SkyPriority status are given low numbers. Within this group of passengers, the lowest numbers are given to frequent flier loyalty program members with elite status who hold seat assignments at the windows towards the back of the airplane; while frequent flier loyalty program members with elite status who hold seat assignments next to the aisle towards the front of the aircraft will be given higher numbers within the elite group. This is the same procedure of filling the aircraft with passengers from the back to the front.
Passengers who have SkyPriority status are given priority. The system will ensure priority is given to passengers who have SkyPriority status so they do not have to wait long before boarding the aircraft.
Passengers traveling on one single passenger name record and seated next to each other will be given consecutive numbers.
The Smart Boarding procedure will not be used for bus gates.
The boarding number is given at the gate in order for employees of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to know which passengers are already at the gate. Moreover, the later you determine the sequence, the better it is optimized. If the sequence is determined before the first passenger checks in, there will be many passengers who have not selected a seat yet. As a result, the data on many information technology systems worldwide would have to be changed to print a new number on the boarding pass.
The Smart Boarding process is still being monitored; and it is expected to be further optimized based on what will have been learned this winter.
I personally like the idea of scanning the boarding pass myself. I certainly received enough practice and experience from being a gate agent for a day at the international airport in Atlanta and the procedure is simple enough — but then again, with my luck I will either have a boarding pass scanner which malfunctions; or I will have someone in front of me in line who does not seem competent enough to successfully implement the procedure of scanning a boarding pass.
Gajan posts that “with the new Smart Boarding method there is less congestion and interference on board. However, allowing SkyPriority passengers to board first is a concession to the optimal sequence. Elite passengers often sit in an aisle seat in the front of the plane. So they will have to get up later to allow the passengers in the window and middle seats next to them to get into their seat. As they do this, they block the aisle for passengers that need to get to the back of the plane. Besides that: the idea is to board from back to front, but now passengers seated in the back have to wait until Elite passengers in the front have taken their seat and cleared the aisle.”
Airlines have been attempting for decades to significantly improve the boarding process — usually with little to no success. For example, an unpopular attempt by United Airlines to simplify and reduce the number of boarding groups, as well as eventually revise the layout of gate areas with premium bypass lanes and improved directional signage was launched in January of 2013; and American Airlines earlier this year tested at several airports a boarding procedure which allows passengers without any carry-on luggage to board the aircraft early.
The war over the space in the overhead storage bins by passengers does not exactly help expedite the boarding process, to say the least. Long lines usually result; and flights have been known to be delayed as a result…
…but has KLM Royal Dutch Airlines actually perfected the procedure of boarding an airplane? Well — that is where you come in.
Suggestions, comments and constructive feedback are welcome — especially if you have experienced the Smart Boarding procedure yourself. Should KLM Royal Dutch Airlines strictly adhere to priority boarding — even if this means that the overall boarding process is less efficient and therefore takes longer? What alternative ways are there to provide recognition and sufficient space for hand luggage? For example, how would you feel about waiting in an airport lounge until the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines software application program on your portable electronic device notifies you that you need to start walking to the gate; and when you arrive at the gate, you are to immediately board the aircraft?
What are your thoughts?