Getting all a flight’s passengers into their seats in the shortest time possible is a big challenge for airlines. Since the dawn of mass air travel, a number of boarding processes have been tried but the perfect solution still remains elusive.
A large reason for the complexity of the problem lies in the unpredictable, and often unreasonable, human element.
United and American have tweaked their boarding processes in recent times with American allowing priority boarding for passengers with no overhead baggage. United has tried to reduce crowding at gates by reducing the number of boarding groups from seven to five and increasing lanes in gate areas from two to five at the larger airports.
As this USA Today article points out, even though the new measures have been successful in reducing boarding times, significant glitches remain as passengers often choose to ignore advice, announcements and the airlines’ boarding priorities and procedures.