London's Gatwick Airport tries out new boarding system to end crowding at the gates

Key Points
  • Computer screens call passengers forward one at a time.
  • Gatwick Airport says it believes the system can save as much as 10% in boarding time.
  • The airport also wants to reduce crowding at the gate or queuing to get on the plane.
London, Feb 2019: EasyJet aircraft on the hardpan having luggage loaded via a conveyor belt at Gatwick Airport London.
Alphotographic | iStock Unreleased | Getty Images

London's Gatwick Airport said it is experimenting with new methods of plane boarding in a bid to quicken the procedure and prevent passengers from scrambling forward at the gate.

The two-month trial is testing different boarding sequences at one gate to find the most efficient and most relaxing way for passengers to get to their seat and stow luggage.

In one reported example, 158 passengers were boarded within 14 minutes. In its statement, Gatwick said it hopes to consistently reduce boarding times by up to 10%, compared with conventional methods.

Large digital screens have been installed to display to individual passengers who is next to board. One proposal has planes filled from the back in a sequence that calls window seats first, middle seats next and aisle seats last.

The experiment is being conducted in alliance with the U.K. budget carrier easyJet at Gate 101 in the airport's North Terminal.

Boarding display

Source: Gatwick Airport

Abhi Chacko, head of enabling technologies and digital innovation at Gatwick Airport, said in a statement Wednesday that the aim is to find out if boarding by seat number will avoid queues at the gate and as passengers step on to the plane.

"By communicating to passengers better and boarding passengers by seat number, we also expect to make the whole boarding experience more relaxing and, potentially, prevent large numbers of passengers rushing forward at any stage," he said.

EasyJet operates a priority boarding scheme for passengers who either have paid for it or need extra assistance. The airport said this policy would continue.

Families and friends who wish to board together are also able to opt out of the system.

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