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The messed up user experience of boarding a British Airways plane. And how to game it.

The messed up user experience of boarding a British Airways plane. And how to game it.

I am a British Airways have-not.

I am what Andrew Mitchell might (allegedly) call a British Airways pleb.

I have not a silver or gold Executive Club membership.

The British Airways haves get to board flights first via a thing called Fast Track.

They get called first, just after people needing assistance to board and passengers with young children.

But there are so many of them.

It might feel exclusive on the inside, but it certainly doesn’t look it from the outside.

If you’re not at the front of the Fast Track queue, it fast becomes Slow Track. Partly because of the size of the Fast Track herd. And partly because the plebs actually get to board at the same time.

And that is the key to gaming the system.

There are usually two people checking boarding cards. One dedicated to the Fast Track. And one for the plebs.

On busy flights, which is just about every flight at the times of day at which I mostly fly, the plebs get to board by seat row number.

From the back.

At the same time as the Fast Track guys.

The Fast Track guys form a queue in front of “their” desk.

Everyone else forms a scrum around the other.

For some reason it almost always comes as a surprise to the scrum when BA announces that it is going to board by seat row number from the back.

So, if you have a seat in the 20’s and you know what’s going to happen, you get to board the plane as one of the first of the plebs at the same time as the guys at the front of the Fast Track queue.

If you are anywhere but at the front of the queue or the front of the scrum, boarding the plane is a shambles.

The Fast Track guys are blocking the aisle at the front of the plane (they all have two bags), whilst the plebs with high seat numbers are trying to get to the back.

Mild mayhem.

If you are one of the first of the high-seat-row-number plebs to board, you get 15 to 20 minutes of at-seat 3G connection time, or reading time, whilst the chaos at the front sorts itself out.

So you’re at least 15 minutes up on most of the haves before take-off.

And people disembark planes much quicker than they board them.

Row 20 leaves the plane about 5 minutes after row 1.

So there is always a net gain from being a back of the plane have-not.

Surely there is a better way of boarding a plane? Surely some time-and-motion algorithm could and should have come up with a better way?

Meanwhile, chalk one up for the plebs.


One comment

  1. Anshuman

    The other advantage of sitting at the back, according a pilot friend of mine, is that you’re more likely to survive in case the plane crashes.

    Whenever he isn’t flying he always sits in the last row, in the middle.

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