Sunday, December 8, 2019
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Is Qantas’ Project Sunrise fading into the sunset?

Project Sunrise

Qantas’ Project Sunrise appears to be fading into the sunset with no decision now expected till at least February and indications that the business case doesn’t stack up at the moment.

Project Sunrise calls for a 300 passenger aircraft operating non-stop between Sydney/Melbourne to London and New York.

The same aircraft would also operate from Brisbane and Perth to London nonstop.

Chief executive Alan Joyce had earlier said that he hoped to make a decision on Project Sunrise at this week’s board meeting.

READ: Jetstar Christmas disruptions unlikely despite strike vote.

However, according to the Australian & International Pilots Association weekly newsletter, Insights, while the Project Sunrise business case will be put to the board this week “it remains subject to pilot acceptance of a new EA and further Board review in February 2020.”

It adds that “depending on the outcome of Qantas Board meetings, a package of terms and conditions may be put with a ballot to Long Haul pilots early next year. This could be irrespective of AIPA’s position on the package.”

READ: Movie legend John Travolta visits his 707’s new Aussie home.

SEE New exclusive colour images of the Qantas 707

Qantas has also gone back to Airbus and Boeing to sharpen their offers indicating that the concept of Sydney to London and New York non-stop is a step too far.

Also, sources tell AirlineRatings.com that the “business case doesn’t stack up at the moment.”

If that is the case one wonders if Qantas has got the configuration right as the airline has consistently underestimated the demand for premium economy, firstly by ignoring it and then be being one of the last adopters.

Even on the 787s on the Perth to London service, there are not nearly enough PY seats.

And recently a group of “frustrated” Qantas pilots gained control of a powerful union committee negotiating both a short-haul agreement and the airline’s Project Sunrise possibly signalling the latter’s demise.

According to a News Corp story “15 of the 20 pilots recently elected to the Australian and International Pilots Association Committee of Management, openly opposed the current union executive.”

Under AIPA rules, executive decisions must be signed off by the CoM.

One pilot who spoke to The Australian on the condition of anonymity said the “clean-out” was fueled by concern about the direction the executive was taking with regard to a new short-haul agreement and Project Sunrise negotiations.

Recently 68 per cent voted down the proposed new short-haul agreement, sending negotiations back to square one said The Australian.

Qantas is looking at both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777X for the mission.

777X

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce wants similar concessions from pilots that they agreed for the introduction of Boeing 787-9s, which equated to a 30 per cent increase in productivity.

This took many forms. For example, there is no pay loading for night flying compared to A330 pilots.

The Australia article reported that the pilot said: “they now realize they gave away too much in that deal and would not make the same mistake again.”

“We’re not interested in that type of negotiation. Qantas thinks pilots will do anything to get shiny new toys but those concessions have had a long-reaching effect and I’m sure it will be a different vote this time around,” he said.

The business case for the ultra-long-haul operations is clearly finely balanced and if the pilots are not prepared for some compromises then Project Sunrise may be doomed.

 

Movie legend John Travolta visits 707’s new Aussie home

travolta
John Travolta with his 707 in Sydney during a visit some years ago.

New photos have emerged of a quick visit by movie star John Travolta to the future home of his donated Boeing 707-138 in November during an Australian speaking tour.

The surprise visit to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society at Albion Park, south of Sydney, saw the aviation enthusiast take a flight on the society’s restored Lockheed Super Constellation, affectionately known as Connie.

READ: American app now scans your passport chip.

Travolta has donated his ex-Qantas Boeing 707 to HARS and the aircraft is currently in Brunswick, Georgia where it is being prepared for the flight to its new home at newly renamed Shellharbour Airport early next year.

The latest HARS newsletter said the movie legend met many HARS volunteers and visitors and enjoyed a tour of the museum before going for the flight on the Constellation.

Travolta
Hollywood legend John Travolta with “Connie”. Photos: M. Keech courtesy of HARS

The 737 was originally scheduled to arrive in November but was relocated to a hangar in Brunswick while work was done to comply with an Airworthiness Directive relating to the attachment fittings for the aircraft’s four engines.

The plane, which started life as VH-EBM,  is the last of 13 707s specially built for Qantas and known as “hotrods”.

The Boeing 138B was about 10ft shorter than the standard 707 to give it better airfield performance and range.

Travolta

Travolta’s aircraft was delivered to Qantas in 1964 and sold to Braniff International Airways in 1969.

It was converted to a VIP jet in 1973 and had a number of owners, including singer Frank Sinatra and billionaire Kirk Kirkorian.

Travolta first came into contact with it while filming “Get Shorty” but had to wait three years before it hit the right price in 1998.

travolta

Travolta bore the cost of maintaining the aircraft for the first four years, before striking a deal with then Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon to paint the plane in Qantas colors and come on board as the airline’s ambassador.

 

The quid pro quo was that Qantas took over the aircraft’s expensive maintenance.

The actor put the plane up for sale several years ago and decided to donate it after an approach from HARS.

Bringing the aircraft back to Australia is a costly exercise and anyone keen to support the project can make a tax-deductible donation. The email is [email protected]

 

Philippine Airlines expands to Perth Australia.

Philippine Airlines

Tourism and international student numbers from the Philippines to Australia are set to be boosted by the announcement of a new direct Perth-Manila service by Philippine Airlines.

The non-stop service will commence in March 2020 with four flights each week.

Perth Airport Chief Executive Officer Kevin Brown said the new service between Perth and Manila was a win for WA business, tourism and exports, and would inject an additional 70,000 seats into the market.

The Philippine Airlines service adds to the momentum of new services over the last year.

See Philippine Airlines ratings:

“We had already been able to add around 400,000 seats of capacity into Perth over the past 12 months from our key Asian markets.

“We think the direct service has the potential to tip the numbers even more in favour of in-bound passengers which will be great for tourism and hospitality and the international education market, said Mr Brown.

“With more than 7,000 islands and amazing beaches on offer, the Philippines is also an attractive holiday destination for West Australians, with 20,000 people visiting last year.”

Philippine Airlines will operate four flights a week on an new Airbus A321neo, which has 12 business class seats and 156 economy seats, departing Manila at 12.05am and arriving in Perth at 7.20am. The flight will then leave Perth at 8.40am and land in Manila at 3.50pm.

According to the latest International Visitor Survey, the number of Philippines visitors travelling to WA grew by 34.7 per cent in the year ending June 2019.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said “the Philippines is a growing market for Western Australia, with the latest visitor statistics showing more than 40 per cent growth.

“These direct Philippine Airlines flights will provide an easier option for Filipinos to visit WA, whether it be to work, study, visit friends and relatives or have a holiday.”

“International education is important for the tourism industry because each international student attracts 1.5 visiting friends and relatives from overseas annually. The flights have the potential to increase the attraction of WA as a study destination for Filipino students, said Mr Papalia.

“Direct flights such as this help to position WA as Australia’s western gateway, whereby visitors can start their Australian adventure in Perth and go on to explore our many wonderful regions.”

Tickets will go on sale later this month.

Jetstar Christmas disruptions unlikely despite union votes to strike

Jetstar strike
Jetstar could face Christmas strike action. Photo: Steve Creedy.

Australian budget carrier Jetstar will likely escape disruptions over the busy Christmas period despite a vote by pilots and ground workers in favor of strike action.

The more serious of the two threats comes from the pilots because of the difficulty of replacing them if they had decided to exercise the option over the holidays to take protected industrial action.

However, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots said in a statement that it would ensure action would not be taken over the Christmas period.

This was despite the fact that 90 percent of members voted in favor of taking protected industrial action.

“The decision to embark on protected industrial action has not been made lightly,” AFAP executive director Simon Lutton said.

“Jetstar pilots and the AFAP ensure that industrial action will not be taken over Christmas to New Year to protect this holiday period for the traveling public.

“We are hoping to resume discussions with the company to reach an agreement so that no further action needs to be taken after this period.”

READ: Ryanair blames base closures on 737 MAX delays

The union asked members to endorse work stoppages of up to 24 hours as well as work-to-rule bans ranging from deciding not to work overtime to refusing to follow standard fuel-saving procedures.

It said previously it had been negotiating with the company for almost 12 months but management remained unwilling to shift on any of the pilot’s pay and conditions claims, such as rostering.

The pilots are also upset they are the lowest-paid jet flight crews employed by Australia’s four airlines and Lutton said they were tired of not being valued as highly as their peers at other carriers.

“Jetstar pilots simply want to be valued fairly in line with their peers at other airlines,” Lutton said last month.

Jetstar chief executive Gareth Evans had earlier vowed vowed to do everything possible to protect the travel plans of customers over Christmas.

“The AFAP is demanding the equivalent of a 15 percent pay increase in the first year,” he said

“The union’s demands would put significant pressure on the low fares our customers rely on and force us to review our investment in new aircraft, new technology and new destinations.

“Our captains earn on average over $A300,000 a year and we are offering a three percent annual increase.

“This is 40 percent above Australia’s annual wage growth and consistent with our position across the Qantas and Jetstar Groups.

“We remain committed to reaching a new agreement to support the great work our pilots do every day, but not any cost. “

In a related development, Jetstar baggage handlers and ground crew voted overwhelmingly in favor of taking protected industrial action after the company rejected basic demands, including 30 guaranteed hours of work per week and a 4 percent annual wage increase.

The ground crew are also seeking more rest breaks, a guaranteed 12-hour break between shifts and commitment to Jetstar employees rather than untrained casual staff,

The Transport Workers’ Union said the 94 percent vote for industrial action covered  250 workers in Sydney, Melbourne, Avalon, Brisbane, Cairns and Adelaide.

The union also cited concerns about security and safety at the airline and warned the Federal Government’s announcement of extra police at airports would not address security concerns.

“Jetstar forces its workers on to part-time hours, some are guaranteed no more than 20 hours a week.,’’ said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

“The rates are low and families are struggling.

“Jetstar workers took a pay freeze in recent years and they expected the company to treat them fairly now they are earning bumper profits.”

Kaine said it was disappointing Jetstar had rejected the vast majority of the workers’ demands outright.

But the airline said it was surprised the TWU pursued a protected action ballot given it only provided a full list of claims two weeks before taking the step.

“It’s important to understand less than half our total ground crew voted to take action,’’ Jetstar boss Evans said.

“We have also offered this work group a 3 percent annual wage increase.

The impact of any potential industrial action by members of the TWU is likely to be minimal as we have strong contingency plans in place.”

 

Ryanair blames base closures on MAX delays

Ryanair737 MAX
Photo: Ryanair.

Ryanair has again reduced its growth expectations for 2020, blaming delays in the delivery of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Boeing has been hoping to get the troubled jet, which has been grounded since March after two fatal accidents, recertified by at least the US Federal Aviation Administration by the end of this year.

But airlines and others are betting it will not happen until next year.

READ: New United CEO vows to continue ‘proven strategy’.

A Ryanair update to investors said the European low-cost giant had again revised its summer schedule based on receiving just 10 MAX aircraft rather than the 20 expected under its previous revised estimate.

The budget carrier had originally expected to receive its first MAX in the second quarter of 2019 and to have 58 aircraft by the 2020 summer peak.

It said the delivery delay was expected to cut traffic growth for the financial year ending March 31, 2021, from 157 million passengers to 156 million.

The shortfall in MAX aircraft deliveries would also necessitate the closure of two more bases in summer 2020; Nuremberg and Stockholm Skavsta.

It also expected to cut summer capacity at several other existing bases.

“We regret these two further base closures and minor capacity cuts at other bases which are solely due to further delivery delays to our Boeing MAX aircraft,’’  Ryanair DAC chief executive Eddie Wilson said.

“We are continuing to work with Boeing, our people, our unions and our affected airports to minimize these capacity cuts and job losses.”

The Ryanair comments came amid news reports about an October 18 letter from Boeing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission that reiterated earlier comments about a suspension or slowdown in MAX production if the manufacturer’s assumptions about a return to service were not met.

The letter said the company believed it had access to adequate space to store the jets it was continuing to produce but was unable to deliver to customers.

It also said there had been an “insignificant” number of cancellations and reductions to cumulative firm orders in the first half of 2019.

“Due primarily to the size of 737 backlog and management’s ability to mitigate potential impacts by shifting planned customer delivery dates, management does not expect 737 MAX order cancellations due to the grounding to have a material impact to revenues or earnings,’’ it said.

New United CEO vows to continue ‘proven strategy’

United new CEO
Newly appoointed United Airlines CEO J. Scott Kirby. Photo: United

Newly named United Airlines chief executive J. Scott Kirby has vowed to drive forward with the airline’s strategy of making itself the carrier of choice for airline customers.

Outgoing CEO Oscar Munoz announced on Thursday that Kirby would move from the no. 2 role to take over the management reins in May 2020.

Kirby was recruited to United by Munoz in 2016 as part of a leadership succession plan and as the airline was still working to overcome the perception that it lagged its competitors.

READ: LATAM codeshare extends Delta’s South American reach

Munoz will serve a one-year term as executive chariman and will continue to work closely with Kirby and the board.

“With United in a stronger position than ever, now is the right time to begin the process of passing the baton to a new leader,” Munoz said in the announcement. “One of my goals as CEO was to put in place a successful leadership transition for United Airlines.

“I brought Scott to United three years ago, and I am confident that there is no one in the world better equipped to lead United to even greater heights.

“It has been the honor of my career to lead the 95,000 dedicated professionals who serve United’s customers every day.”

Kirby, 52, is a US Air Force Academy graduate who has been in the commercial airline business for more than 30 years.

He started his career at the Pentagon in the technology sector and earned a Master of Science in operations research from George Washington University.

The new CEO  joined United after a long stint at American Airlines, where he held the title of president since the merger with US Airways in 2013.

He had been seen as a likely successor to American chief executive Doug Parker but this changed when Robert Isom was appointed president.

As United’s president, Kirby had responsibility for the airline’s operations, marketing, sales, alliances, network planning and revenue management.

“I look forward to working with Oscar, the Board, our established leadership team and every United employee as we drive forward our proven strategy and focus on being the airline customers choose to fly and return to time and again,” he said.

Munoz, who became chief executive in 2015 after a scandal involving his predecessor,  is credited with boosting United’s operational and financial performance as well as improving its culture.

That work suffered a setback in 2017 when the airline generated a global controversy after a doctor was dragged screaming from a regional jet in Chicago. The controversy saw Munoz removed from chairman’s role and the airline introduce a series of changes to improve its customer service.

“When I joined United as CEO, I laid out ambitious goals to build a new spirit of United by regaining the trust of our employees and customers – and I’m proud of how far we’ve come,” Munoz said.

“Along with the successful implementation of the plan our team laid out in January 2018, United’s operational and financial performance isn’t just better – it’s better than ever.

“By instilling a culture of ‘proof not promise,’ we have transformed United even faster than we expected and there’s an incredible sense of excitement about the future.”

The transition will see United’s current chairman, Jane Garvey, retire from the board in May after more than a decade. The board had requested in 2018 that Garvey remain in her role for a year beyond its mandatory retirement age.

Garvey praised Munoz for his leadership and commitment, noting he became CEO at one of the most challenging points in United’s history.

She said and his focus on putting customers and employees first had “transformed United’s culture today and successfully positioned the company for tomorrow”.

Ted Philip, who joined the board in 2016, will become the lead independent director.

American app now scans your passport chip

American Boeing max 2020
Image: American Airlines.

American Airlines passengers hopping on an international flight can now go straight to the gate thanks to a passport scanning function on its app.

The airline is the first to offer scanning of information electronically embedded in the passport in a move designed to make checking-in easier for international passengers.

The app scans the Near Field Communication (NFC) chip embedded in the passport and transmits it securely to the airline.

READ: Delta slide falls on front garden

This means they no longer need to have their passports rechecked at the airport, currently a requirement even if the customer has uploaded a photo of their passport to the airline’s app.

The new feature means they will be prompted to enter their passport information and then scan their passport on their iOS or Android device.

“We are continuously adding features to our app to make travel easier and worry-free for our customers,” American chief information officer Maya Leibman said.

“Mobile passport scanning removes a time-consuming step, providing our customers with a smoother check-in experience for international flights.”

With this new enhancement, the customer will be prompted to enter their passport information and then scan their passport with an iOS or Android device. The app provides easy-to-follow instructions for the process.

Other recent innovations in the American app include boarding notifications and Siri shortcuts and a dark mode option.

Additional services to improve the travel experience include biometric international boarding and virtual 3D aircraft tours online as well as a redesigned self-service kiosk menu that simplifies the check-in process.

There is also an improved family seating approach, which ensures adults and kids under 14 traveling together on the same reservation are seated together.

American offers customers 6,800 daily flights to more than 365 destinations in 61 countries from its hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington, D.C

United orders 50 A321XLRs for trans-Atlantic expansion

united and Airbus
Image: Airbus

United Airlines says its new fleet of Airbus A321XLR aircraft will open up potential new destinations as it uses the long-range jets to replace older aircraft and expand its trans-Atlantic operations.

The US carrier announced Tuesday that it had signed a firm order with Airbus for 50 A321XLRs, at a list price of about $US7 billion, to replace its aging Boeing 757s.

It expects to use the aircraft for expanded services on trans-Atlantic routes from its key U.S. hubs in Newark/New York and Washington D.C.

The first A321XLR is due to be delivered to United in 2024 and the jets are expected to enter international service the following year.

READ: Airlines need to get priority boarding right

“The new Airbus A321XLR aircraft is an ideal one-for-one replacement for the older, less-efficient aircraft currently operating between some of the most vital cities in our intercontinental network,” said United chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella in the announcement. 

“In addition to strengthening our ability to fly more efficiently, the A321XLR opens potential new destinations to further develop our route network and provide customers with more options to travel the globe.”

The A321XLR has proved a popular choice with airlines looking for additional flexibility from a fuel-efficient narrowbody jet.

Its increased payload and range means they can provide economically viable service on longer routes that were not feasible with widebody jets.

Airbus notes it will allow service from the US  East Coast to a much larger selection of European destinations.

The A321XLR delivers a range of up to 4,700nm, with 30 percent lower fuel consumption per seat compared with previous-generation competitor jets.

It will have a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 101 metric tonnes, while takeoff, climb, and flight performance will change little from the A321neo and there is more than 90 percent commonality across the neo family.

It achieves its long-legged performance by combining the A321neo’s two rear center fuel tanks into one to add fuel capacity and reduce structural weight.

Other significant changes include structural reinforcements and modified landing gears for the increased MTOW, increased braking capability, higher tire speed, and additional flap and slat configurations.

The order comes as Boeing is still grappling with the crisis affecting its 737 MAX aircraft but this did not stop it from last month quietly rolling out the biggest member of the MAX family, the MAX 10.

Read: Boeing rolls out the MAX 10

The  MAX 10 can seat up to 230 passengers and Boeing says it offers the lowest seat-mile cost of any single-aisle airplane ever produced.

The Boeing jet will now undergo system checks and engine runs prior to a first flight next year.

Storms and communications problems brought jets too close

jets flight paths

Two Boeing 737 jets hurtling towards each other on the same flight path came too close after civilian and military air traffic controllers struggled to co-ordinate a last-minute change due to weather.

The October, 2018, incident saw a Qantas 737 inbound to Brisbane from Melbourne on a reciprocal track to an outbound Virgin flight headed to the Queensland leisure destination of Proserpine.

The jets breached separation standards when they came within 2.1 nautical miles of each other horizontally and 650ft vertically.

READ: Save the planet – eat your Air New Zealand coffee cup

The minimum lateral separation allowed is three nautical miles and aircraft are supposed to maintain a vertical separation of 1000ft.

An investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found a combination of factors led to the breach, including thunderstorms and a global parachuting championship that prompted  Airservices Australia to reconfigure its Brisbane control center.

The Qantas aircraft was descending through military-controlled airspace near Amberley Air Force Base while the departing Virgin 737 was being managed by the civilian controllers at the Airservices Brisbane terminal control unit.

Planes
A map of the incidents shows the jets on the same flight path. Source: ATSB

Controllers in the two systems are currently required to share information manually while a joint system is under development.

The thunderstorms meant the Virgin plane was flying radar headings assigned by Brisbane air traffic control rather than using a standard instrument departure.

The Brisbane departures controller identified the Virgin plane as it approached Amberley airspace and was told by the military controller of the inbound Qantas jet.

Brisbane replied that the Virgin aircraft would soon be turning right, and this meant it would avoid Amberley airspace

However, when advised to turn right, the crew of the Virgin aircraft asked to continue on their current heading for another 70 or 80 nautical miles due to the weather.

This led to the Virgin jet entering Amberley airspace without a hand-off from Brisbane and operating on a different radio frequency to the military controller and the Qantas 737.

Compounding the problem was the fact that Airservices had not advised Amberley it had changed the terminal control unit configuration as a result of the parachuting event being put on hold.

This caused a 17-second delay in Amberley ATC being able to contact the correct controller during which time the distance between the planes reduced by 6kms.

“This delay in communication between Amberley and Brisbane ATC reduced the amount of time available to recover the impending loss of separation while the aircraft were closing on reciprocal tracks in opposite directions,” the report said.

“If this configuration change was immediately relayed to Amberley ATC, it would have allowed the Amberley approach controller more time to resolve the impending conflict between the two aircraft, and separation requirements may have been maintained.”

Once communication was established, the Virgin aircraft was transferred to the Amberley frequency and the two aircraft were diverted away from each other.

Investigators noted both aircraft were fitted with traffic collision avoidance systems that would have allowed pilots to resolve the conflict had ATC not done so.

The incident resulted in both Brisbane and Amberley ATC taking steps to improve communication between their two systems.

“This investigation highlights the importance of clear communication and coordination between air traffic controllers operating in different, yet immediately adjacent airspace, and the need for a clear understanding of the responsibility for separation assurance, especially when operating without a shared traffic picture,” ATSB director transport safety Dr Stuart Godley said.

“The ATSB welcomes the new dedicated communications pathway between the Amberley approach and Brisbane departures south positions, and the implementation of an airspace release that controls the risk that short notice deviations present across the two non-linked systems.”

Dr Godley said the successful recovery of separation also illustrated the effectiveness of the conflict resolution training received by air traffic controllers in loss of separation events.

Airlines need to get priority boarding right

Priority
Photo: John Walton

With the news that Qantas is revamping its priority boarding to give premium customers greater priority, it’s perhaps a useful time to think more widely about how to make this option a real perk for premium cabin passengers and highly valuable frequent flyers.

This is particularly the case as airlines continue to segment their cabins with extra-legroom economy, premium economy and basic economy options that all come with their own set of benefits.

It’s a fact of life that many passengers still like to board early, even regular travellers who one might imagine would have little to no desire to sit on a plane for any amount of time more than they need to.

READ our list of best airlines for 2020

Whether that’s to secure space in the overhead bin closest to them, to enjoy a pre-departure beverage, to ensure their jackets are hung up neatly, to get a bit of work done before pushback or simply to relax before takeoff, priority boarding is a benefit of either buying a more expensive ticket or for loyalty to an airline — and people buying the more expensive tickets and more loyal customers like (and frankly deserve) to get what they pay for.

The fundamental problem set is that there are usually only two queues, that there are now too many passengers in the “priority” queue — and that not all of those passengers are equally valuable to the airline.

Priotity boarding airlines
If everyone is priority, nobody is priority. Photo: John Walton

When you have a passenger in business class standing next to a high-tier frequent flyer who spends many tens of thousands of dollars with an airline every year, that’s one thing.

But when it’s business class, plus premium economy, plus extra-legroom economy, plus anyone more than just an entry-level of the frequent flyer program, all lumped in together in the “priority” zone, that’s a problem.

It’s often particularly problematic at outstation airports, whose contracted staff are not employed directly by the airline, are often poorly managed, and aren’t incentivized in any way to deliver a positive passenger experience for premium passengers.

But how to fix this problem? Lots of airlines have tried, whether that’s the US carriers with the relatively inelegant multiple tensabarrier corrals of boarding gates, the Japanese carriers with the boarding gates featuring staffers walking around holding laminated sheets confirming which group is boarding, or other options entirely.

For a start, airlines need to figure out how much space they have to play with. This may well vary based on the airport: at their home hub, they are likely to have more control over the overall experience, more staff who can assist, and a closer relationship with the airport.

The Emirates premium experience at Dubai, for example, is excellent but of course unique to the bi-level boarding process.

Airlines need to figure out how many different groups they need.

At a minimum, I think this is probably at least one for each class of service, with associated frequent flyer levels: platinum members board with first class, gold with business, silver with premium economy, and bronze with extra-legroom economy, for example.

I keep coming back to the necessity of policing — or at the very least signposting — the end of the queue as well.

Too often it’s too easy for passengers without priority boarding to simply join a queue to which they’re not entitled, shrug when they get to the end and end up being boarded anyway because it’s too much of a hassle to send them to the back of the line.

I’m struck that, with automatic boarding gates, this should not be an insurmountable problem — if the gates are located in the right place.

priority
Are automated boarding gates being placed in the right spot? Photo: SITA

Rather than having them at the end of the boarding queue, they should be in the beginning, allowing passengers to verify their eligibility for the queue and then entering into a segregated second queue.

This is, in essence, how easyJet works its Speedy Boarding process, and it is very effective.

Combined with this option could be the A/B queuing model: passengers for boarding group 1 line up in row A, and group 2 in row B. Group 3 enters row A after group 1 has completed boarding, and so on down the list.

A fundamental rethink likely requires a more thoughtful design of airports: something like, for example, what Singapore Changi does with gate-based security, except with boarding zones.

But there is much that airlines can think about in the meantime — and thinking is indeed needed.

 

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