why don't they board a plane by rows anymore?

On a few recent flights on Alaska Airlines, they did not board the plane by rows the way they used to.

When I asked one of the gate attendants why they no longer boarded the back rows first, he told me that it is faster to board all rows at once. I am deeply skeptical about this. It really seems to me that it must be faster to board the back rows before boarding the front rows.

I know that with this system (back rows board first) there were always morons that tried to board before their row was called, and that this made some extra work for the gate agents who had to tell said morons to sit down and wait till their row number was called. Is that the reason they no longer use this system?

Did Alaska TOTALLY abandon boarding in groups? Just one call for everybody?

Most airlines now have zones. The first class and business class people go first. Then the very back. Then it’s in sections. It seems to based more on sides of the airplane rather than the row from what I can tell.

The airlines want to get you on fast. There are enough delays in air traffic control without having to worry about flights being delayed because people can’t find space in the overheads and are blocking the aisle.

Seems to me, that they should board the window seats first. Back to front.

Then folks would not have to back up, get out of the way for the person sitting in an aisle set when you need to get in the middle or window.

They boarded the first class (and mileage plus gold or whatever they call it) and the “passengers travelling with children who may need some extra time to board”.

But then when it came time for general boarding, they just boarded all rows. There was none of this “passengers in rows 20 or higher” may now board that they used to do. When I asked the gate attendant why they didn’t board by rows–since that is so much more convenient and faster he said, with an annoyed tone in his voice “Nope. It’s faster this way.”

They should do it like Skyhigh Airlines.

I haven’t flown for over a year but they were still boarding by rows then. It wasn’t Alaska Airlines though.

Maybe after boarding 1st class and premium and special needs, so many of the passengers are already boarded that going by row doesn’t make sense?

This would work if everyone travelled alone. A lot of people travel with family (including children) or business associates, and like to sit together on the same row. They also like to get on the plane at the same time.

Assuming that everyone on the plane knew which seats are window seats and whch are aisles.

Continental, Air France and Singapore Air still board by rows.

The few times I’ve flown, and been listening to announcements, the airlines ordinarily loaded by rows. But a couple of cases, where smaller planes were not filled up, they called for “pre-boarding” – those with small children or needing help – first, then took all rows. I’d guess that no more than 5-10% of flights did this, though. How large a plane was the Alaska Air ship, and was it full?

For Alaska Air it’s part of TANGO for Turn and Go.


Allegedly it’s more efficient at least for the airline.

I think it’s a big clusterf*ck.

Alaska doesn’t fly anything larger than a 737-900.

I flew Northwest a month ago, and they did it by groups of rows. First class, then 20 and higher, 15 to 20, 10 to 15, then all rows who waited to avoid the crowds. They did it that way on the little 44-seater and on the Airbus A320.

The Irish budget airline Ryanair, in order to keep its costs to a minimum, does not allocate seats and therefore there is no question of boarding by seat number (or indeed class, since all the seats are exactly the same).

On quiet flights this is all well and good. But on full flights, it means an unseemly scrum at the boarding gate as people manoeuvre themselves into prime positions ages before the flight is called and a sprint across the tarmac, elbowing nuns out of the way - there are always nuns on Ryanair flights - in a usually vain attempt to get the seat of your choice.

In my experience, where flights are boarded by row, you still find people who have sneaked in before their time.

My experience is that boarding by rows takes place when the plane is big enough that people need directing to the right area - basically, wide-body planes. I can only remember one occassion on a narrow-body plane where the rear rows were called first.

As for Ryanair, I don’t understand the scramble. Window seats are always easy to get further back, there’s little difference in noise levels, nobody seems eager to grab the two or three seats that actually have more legroom, and getting off the plane first never helps because there’s always a huge delay for the luggage.

My flights on Continental and “Continental Express” (5 segments on each, last as recent as 12 August) over the last year were ALL boarded front-to-back by rows. Be it aboard the full-size 757, the medium 737, or the small Embraer 145.

On American Airlines OTOH we were boarded by zones/groups.

Budget airlines flying medium-smallish aircraft, such as Southwest and Ryanair, use the “any row, any seat” system, SW apparently separates 3 customer categories but that’s it.

The last time I flew a 747, they boarded this way. I don’t remember the details, but I recall it seemed very clever.

Southwest always boards its 737s on a first-come, first-board system. If your boarding pass is numbered 1 - 30, you board in the first group, and so on. Seems to work fairly well…even when boarding in the last group I can usually find an aisle seat without any problem.

Oh, something that Ryanair have started doing on occassions, with full flights, is boarding in sequance number order, that is, the order in which boarding cards were issued. I guess they’re trying to give people an incentive to check in promptly and not leave it to the 30 minute deadline.

Let’s see… how to board an airplane, let me count the ways:

**Board by rows, starting at the tail. ** That’s how they boarded when my grampa flew, so dadgummit, it should still work!

Board by sections - what’s the difference? Perhaps they figure people can’t decipher that “SEAT” number on their boarding pass and figure out that “37B” means they have a nasty middle seat next to the aft lav?

Board by seat type - window, middle, aisle. If they could make it work, it would be wonderful, but everyone would need to be there all at once. Any late-comers would screw things up. And do you really think pax would understand “Now boarding Seats 20 through 25 A and 20 through 25 F … Now boarding seats 20 through 25 B and 20 through 25 E”

Treat it like a city bus. Southwest does this with the minor refinement of boarding by groups based on when you checked in. Alaska’s “TANGO” appears to be similar.

All of these have one big downfall - No matter where a person is sitting, they’re going to be a Bin Hog and stuff their oversize roller bag that should have been checked as baggage at check-in into the first overhead bin they see - typically at row 5 or so, leaving no space for row 5’s pax and leading to the flight attendant’s “Is there space in this bin?” dance, usually leading up to the dreaded Gate Check for anyone unfortunate to be among the last to board.

Honestly, the “just find a seat that doesn’t have a spring poking out and put your butt in it” schemes seem to work better than assigned seating. Of course, prohibiting carry-on of anything large or heavy enough to need wheels would help immensely. Last week, I was on a flight using a Bombardier jet that had itty-bitty bins that roller bags don’t fit into, so they basically had to gate-check something for everyone except me and my small bag that actually fits under the seat. Talk about a big ol’ cluster-bang. :mad:

One final thought - why do they “pre-board” first class pax? They get on the plane first, but then have to endure the unwashed hordes passing by them. Why aren’t they left for last? If I had the option to spend as little time as possible on the plane, I think I’d take advantage of it.

Two reasons:

(1) It’s just a little extra perk for the 1st-class passengers, so they can imagine they are getting extra value for their over-priced tickets. If you are a 1st class passenger, and want to board last, you can always do so. (I don’t travel 1st class, but I over sit back while everyone is rushing to be first in the queue. It doesn’t matter if you are last: the plane won’t take off without you.)

(2) So the unwashed hordes can see the little extra perks that the 1st class passengers get as they crowd past, and think to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be nice to get served a glass of wine while the plane is still on the ground, and get a little bit of extra leg-room like these elite passengers do?” It might induce a few economy-class passengers to spend the extra to get those little added touches …

While some first-class passengers wait until the last minute, more often they are taking advantage of the free booze to enjoy a libation before take-off.

One reason that free-for-all boarding works on Alaska Air is because so many of their customers are elite status by this time of year. Literally half the plane is filled with frequent flyers, so it’s not like there are that many people left.

That said, I fly somewhere nearly every week, and haven’t noticed anyone doing free-for-all. Not even Alaska. My last Alaska Air flight was between Seattle and Washington DC, and I didn’t notice anything unusual in boarding – meaning they boarded by rows, starting at the tail. That was last month. I’ve flown American, Northwest, US Airways, United, Continental, Alaska, and Delta in the last 4 months, and the procedure has been the same for everyone, except I think United and US Airways used ‘sections’ which amounted to the same as row number groups.

I find the OP to be not the case – but I’ll let you know if I see any trends developing.