KLM introduces Smart Boarding on EU flights

Old Nov 1, 13, 12:39 am
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KLM introduces Smart Boarding on EU flights

As promised I would get back with some inside information regarding KLM's Smart Boarding concept. From KLM I gathered the information below.

For a while KLM has been researching the possibilities to reduce the turn-around times of their short-haul aircraft as time on the ground costs money.
Over the past few months KLM has been testing the smart boarding concept. As the results have been promising as per winter timetable 2013-2014 it has been implemented on 3 Schengen flights from AMS to BUD, HEL and TXL.

As known by most of you, there are certain models which suggest that boarding can be improved compared the current situation. KLM uses a combination of filling the aeroplane from back to front and filling the window seats first, then the middle seats and finally the aisle seats. During the tests it has been shown that boarding times have been cut considerably.

In practice the procedure works as follows:
  1. Upon entering the gate area each passenger scans his/her boarding pass. The computer provides a number which determines the boarding sequence of passenger concerned. Once boarding has started, the number on the screen determines which number is called, only then is the passenger allowed to board;
  2. SkyPriority passengers are given low numbers. Within this group the lowest number is given to the elite members sitting on window seats at the back of the aeroplane, elite members on aisle seats in the front of the aircraft will be given higher numbers within the elite group (same principle of filling back to front);
  3. If any passenger (SkyPriority or not) turns up once boarding has commenced, the computer will automatically recalculate the best position when this passenger is to board;
  4. People travelling on one PNR and seated next to each other will be given consecutive numbers;
  5. Smart Boarding will not be used for bus gates;
  6. The boarding number is given at the gate because this way KLM knows which passengers are already at the gate. Moreover: the later you determine the sequence, the better it is optimized. If you determine numbers before the first passenger checks in, many passengers have not selected a seat yet. Finally many IT systems worldwide would have to be changed to print a new number on the boarding pass.
  7. The process is still being monitored hand the boarding process will be further optimized based on the learnings this winter.
  8. Any suggestions or feedback are welcome, especially if you have experienced smart boarding yourself.

Question for discussion:
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.

Should KLM strictly adhere to priority boarding, even if this means the overall boarding process is less efficient and therefore takes longer?
Could you think of alternative ways to provide recognition and sufficient space for hand luggage? For instance, imagine you can wait in the lounge until the KLM app on your phone notifies you that you need to start walking to the gate; when you arrive there it is your turn and you walk right on the plane?

Last edited by Gajan; Nov 4, 13 at 3:39 am Reason: Update from KLM
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Old Nov 1, 13, 2:02 am
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Originally Posted by AD
Passagiers van de KLM moeten vanaf volgend jaar op Europese vluchten instapnummertjes trekken om het aan boord gaan sneller en ordelijker te laten verlopen. Dat meldt De Telegraaf.

Iedereen krijgt dan bij de gate een nummertje uit een automaat, al naar gelang de zitplaats in het vliegtuig. Zo moeten de rijen slimmer worden opgevuld bij het boarden en gaan mensen bij het raam eerder naar binnen dan wie aan het gangpad zit. 'Zo voorkom je opstoppingen. Het gedrang in slurf en gangpaden is dan verleden tijd', aldus KLM-topman Camiel Eurlings. Dit zogeheten 'smart boarding' wordt nu getest.
There's a trial with smart boarding on intra-EU flights. PAX will have to get a ticket from a machine with a number. Boarding will take place according to the number, which will be assigned based on your seat. So window seats first, then middle, etc. .
Will be interesting to see how they will handle families/companions with both a window and aisle seat and Skypriority pax of course.
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Old Nov 1, 13, 2:14 am
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KLM has been trialing this for quite some time now, results were quite promising from what I saw.

I will see if KLM can give us some extra information, mainly with respect to SkyPriority Passengers and those travelling under one PNR but not seated together.

Gajan
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Old Nov 1, 13, 2:30 am
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So they never implemented a system as simple as SkyPriority for boarding properly and now they somehow think that a number is going to make any difference? The problem is not the system but the gate agents who either don't care how to handle the boarding or don't know how it's supposed to work in the first place.
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Old Nov 1, 13, 2:34 am
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From what I saw the system also makes it easier for gate agents.

Each pax gets a number after scanning his/her boarding pass, only when your number comes up are you allowed to board.
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Old Nov 1, 13, 2:37 am
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Boarding all window seats first leads to a 40% decrease in time required for boarding.

But there are other, faster ways.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14717695
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Old Nov 1, 13, 2:40 am
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Originally Posted by Gajan View Post
From what I saw the system also makes it easier for gate agents.

Each pax gets a number after scanning his/her boarding pass, only when your number comes up are you allowed to board.
This will be difficult to operate in an efficient manner. I presume they will not line everyone up in order before boarding starts. Then, the gate lice will clog the way and block access for those whose number is up. And if number 17 doesn't show up, how long do you wait before moving onwards?

This "only after the BP is scanned" also makes things difficult. Surely each seat number should have this number preassigned? (If it is efficient, then each plane type should surely be boarded in the same manner each time). So why not print this boarding number on the boarding pass, on the basis of the seat assigned/chosen? (OK, there could be large gaps in the boarding number order on lightly-filled flights, but that's not an insurmountable problem)
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Old Nov 1, 13, 4:57 am
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Originally Posted by irishguy28 View Post
This "only after the BP is scanned" also makes things difficult.
Yeah, what about the gates without a holding pen, where pax are only scanned just before enterering the jetway?

I saw at trial once at one of the last AMS C gates, where they had set up a mobile checkpoint some distance before the gate with a machine that dispensed slips with numbers. Intercepting pax on the way to the gate was definitely a weak point, and the whole thing of course required an extra couple of staff members.

An article about this on luchtvaartnieuws.nl quotes Eurlings as saying that this is not only about speeding things up, but also about making more money from ancillary fees. Makes me wonder if they are planning to sell priority boarding to anyone willing to pay.

I also wonder how realistic the test reported by the BBC actually were. The times achieved don't really chime with what I experience in real life. Those 72 volunteers were presumable all young and hale, and knew exactly what was expected of them. No little old ladies carefully studying the seat row numbers from row 1, even though their boarding card states 31E; no "experienced" travelers trying to drag a huge roll-a-bord down the aisle that's obviously too wide and gets caught on alternate seats on either side; etc.

Johan
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Old Nov 1, 13, 5:19 am
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I was invited to see test a while back and was quite impressed.

Though needing some perfecting at that time the boarding time was considerably shorter than the flight which started boarding next us at the same time.

I am curious to see how it will be now it has been launched.

You can compare the principle to getting a number at the butcher/baker and you board when your number is called.
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Old Nov 1, 13, 7:25 am
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Photo from a while back

How it works:

Upon entering the gate area the passenger scans the boarding pass at the device, which provides a number.

Once boarding starts, the screen shows which number can board.

See the Twitter of Jasper Visser for a photo of the scanner.
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Old Nov 1, 13, 7:29 am
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I wonder if they will also implement this for Cityhopper flights boarding via buses. It wouldn't make any sense of course, but that's typically a reason for KLM to do something.
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Old Nov 1, 13, 8:44 am
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Originally Posted by mfkne View Post
I wonder if they will also implement this for Cityhopper flights boarding via buses. It wouldn't make any sense of course, but that's typically a reason for KLM to do something.
Yes, they can have the driver come and open one door only and not let you off the bus until you present the correct sequence number.
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Old Nov 1, 13, 9:17 am
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Originally Posted by irishguy28 View Post
Yes, they can have the driver come and open one door only and not let you off the bus until you present the correct sequence number.
Unless the pax are all neatly lined up in the rights sequence in the packed bus, that is a recipe for disaster.

Johan

Last edited by johan rebel; Nov 3, 13 at 5:59 am Reason: missing word
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Old Nov 1, 13, 9:20 am
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Originally Posted by Gajan View Post
How it works:

Upon entering the gate area the passenger scans the boarding pass at the device, which provides a number.

Once boarding starts, the screen shows which number can board.
It is not at all uncommon for pax to arrive at the gate when boarding has already started. Then what? Will the system automatically assign them another number?

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Old Nov 1, 13, 11:17 am
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Obviously, it is called "Smart Boarding" after all, and we all know how capable AFKL's IT is.
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