Recent surveys have indicated that the airlines are getting worse instead of better when it comes to customer satisfaction, one of the key areas being on-time arrivals. Now it doesn’t take a genius to realize that arriving on time is heavily dependent on departing on time, so it follows that anything an airline can do to reduce the amount of time a plane sits at the gate will serve to improve this valuable metric. And yet, the airlines continue to make decisions that will most likely have the opposite effect.
I travel fairly frequently, so I get to see the impact of these decisions first hand. First, the whole charging extra for baggage thing has had a direct impact on the time it takes to load the plane and push back from the gate, as passengers now have incentive to carry on luggage that was never intended to be carried on. This holds up other passengers, while they try to figure out how to wedge a 60-pound steamer trunk in the overhead bin. Second, you have American Airlines implementing new policies allowing coach passengers pay extra to reserve the prime seats closest to the exit, essentially creating a new class of passengers — Super Coach? First Class Lite? This will only serve to further clog the aisle in a process that was not flowing all that smoothly to begin with.
Which brings me to the point of this rant. I’m used to being assigned a group number that determines what order the passengers are allowed to board the plane. Has anyone else noticed that membership in these groups seems to be completely random, and that your seat assignment seems to have no bearing? Here’s an idea: if you’re going to go to the trouble of breaking us up into groups to board your lousy airplanes, why not do it in something approaching a logical manner? For instance, American Airlines has six groups (not counting First Class, and all the other priority seating classes). It seems to me that Group 1 should be all windows seats in the rear half of the plane, Group 2 should be all window seats in the front half. Group 3 should be middle seats in the rear, while Group 4 is middle seats in front. And finally, Groups 5 and 6 should be aisle seats in the aft and fore respectively.
If the airline industry cannot manage even simple steps such as this to streamline the boarding process, then they are doomed to continue failing to meet customer expectations. And don’t even get me started on lost luggage.