I’ve been an aviation enthusiast since I was a kid. These days I don’t only love planes but I’m fascinated by operations and the customer experience. Every time I travel I put on my consultant hat and analyse each step of the experience.
It is a tough industry to make money in. Nearly ever airline in the western hemisphere has faced serious challenges in the past decade. It has become quite difficult to differentiate and competition seems to be primarily on price. I admit I don’t have much loyalty to any airline and nearly always base my decision on price. Having said that I do appreciate stress free flying.
One of the most stressful parts of flying is boarding the plane. It is stressful because it is generally very chaotic and very badly managed by the ground staff. That is precisely why I was pleasantly surprised recently when I traveled on Lufthansa out of Toronto. For the very first time I witnessed airline ground staff actively trying to organize passengers at the gate based on their seat assignments.
I fly intercontinental at least twice a year and every time my frustration piles up at boarding time and it isn’t at the other passengers. It’s at the management of gate operations(Read previous post on A380, Etihad and Turkish Airlines) that I found the biggest opportunity for improvement.
Lufthansa was proactive at the gate in Toronto. They went around asking people around the gate if they were flying on their airline and proceeded to direct customers to the line that they should be in based on their seat assignment. This was done before any announcement was made that boarding was to start. What it did was to help avoid the rush of people towards the gate at the first announcement. That rush usually creates a massive bottle neck and inconveniences everyone. It also ruins the boarding system the airlines wishes to implement. The implementation wasn’t perfect given late comers to the gate would just walk up and try and board not knowing which group was boarding. However the attempt made the boarding process less painful. This only happened in Toronto and no where else on the journey.
I hope more airlines look at this part of the journey and improve it. Ultimately technology will help resolve this issue along with better airport and gate design.