Waiting is an annoying activity that travellers have to deal with. It seems that especially air travel is plaqued by long unwelcome waits. Some people have the necessary money or status miles to travel in style and avoid queues. Mere mortals, however, can conduct a study on how boarding for example is being conducted in different countries.

Here I only focus on my observations from New Zealand and the U.S.A. I have the impression that boarding an airplane takes longer in the U.S.A. than it does in New Zealand. Are the NZ travellers just faster or more disciplined? Seeing that there are many international travellers in both countries, I doubt that there is a special national traveller mentality.

I think the main reason is the way boarding takes place. In the U.S.A. passengers are boarded according to priority groups. First class and priority access can always board and then there are groups 1 to 4 with 4 being the lowest priority.

Coming from New Zealand, you would think that the groups were formed according to where people sit. But far from it. It is strictly according to priority and that means that you can sit anywhere in the airplane. It can easily be that group 1 are passengers primarily in the first rows and a few in the back rows. Having to wait until the ones at the front are seated before the ones in the back can proceed does take time. On one flight I was in group 4 but sat in a third row window seat behind the business class. As my fellow row neighbors had a higher priority they were already seated and had to let me in which held up everybody else.

In New Zealand the general system is the following: Passengers in business class (on international flights) and with priority access as well as those that need assistance board first. They are followed by the travellers in a window seat. That’s very smart because then 2 others don’t have to get up later. On bigger flights, the rest of the passengers are asked to board according to their row number starting with the higher numbers thus filling the plane from the rear to the front.

This system seems to work well and the boarding of planes takes place swiftly and is faster than in L.A. and San Francisco in my opinion where I observed the U.S. style of boarding. Though that is just a very unscientific observation from observing a few flights.

CC BY-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

One thought on “Boarding NZ and U.S. style

  1. Your observations have been confirmed by a physicist- sequential row seating is the least efficient

    I noticed on my last few domestic flights in Australia that there was much less jostling at the gate- in the US, people cram around there like cattle, whereas it seemed less pushy down under (and fewer people were trying to stuff large bags on board).

    Probably the most efficient I’ve seen in the US is Southwest Airlines, which does not assign seats, but seating order (according to check in time). A lot of people find this cheesy, but if you are smart, you can figure out how to get better numbers. They turn planes around amazingly fast at gates

    Regardless, you are really just another form of baggage 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *