Southwest Airlines is testing a new boarding procedure it hopes will allow flights to spend less time at the gate. The plan will let passengers choose whether to enter the cabin from the forward or rear doors, thereby, in theory, allowing twice as many flyers to make their way onto the plane at the same time without the usual logjams.
Southwest Airlines seems to have found a surprisingly simple way to get more passengers to their seats in a shorter amount of time. The budget carrier has reportedly been experimenting with allowing passengers to choose to board aircraft from either the forward cabin door or the plane’s aft entrance. For now, the novel concept will be tried out only at California Airports including, Hollywood Burbank Airport Bob Hope Airport (BUR), Long Beach Airport (LGB), Sacramento International Airport (SMF) and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC).
It seems it’s no accident that the airline is initially testing the concept primarily at airports in sunny California. Cold temperatures and snow or ice, it seems, could quickly render the new boarding concept completely ineffective.
Airline officials confirmed the trial this week, telling the Chicago Business Journal that passengers who opt to use the rear cabin door will first exit the terminal building and then board the aircraft via a set of removable stairs. Flyers who choose to board through the forward door will in most cases still enter through the jetway as usual.
The airline says the hope is that allowing passengers the option of more than one door will dramatically speed the loading process for obvious reasons. Boarding the cabin from both the front and rear could also have the added benefit of meaning fewer passenger will need to wait behind seat mates carefully placing items in the overhead bins. The airline will also experiment with allowing passengers on select flights to disembark form either the front or aft doors as well.