In an industry where on-time performance and seamless customer experience are critical, Qantas is set to implement a significant change to its boarding procedure. Moving away from the current two-line boarding system, the Australian airline will be implementing a new grouped boarding system, similar to the methods adopted by its Star Alliance counterparts such as American Airlines and British Airways. This change is intended to streamline boarding, improve on-time departures, and enhance the overall customer experience.
The Current State of Affairs
As it stands, Qantas’ current boarding process for domestic flights involves just two lines: a priority boarding line for business class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers, and a second line for everybody else. However, the airline has acknowledged that this system can lead to congestion and delays.
The New Boarding Process
To address this, Qantas has announced it will introduce a more organized and structured boarding system that divides passengers into up to five different groups. This new procedure is far from innovative – North American and European airlines have long been using similar group-based systems with proven success – but it’s a first for Qantas and a significant step forward in aligning with international best practices.
Under the new system, what most travellers know as Qantas priority boarding is what Qantas calls ‘premium boarding.’ This will remain in place for anybody in business class, along with Chairman’s Lounge members and Platinum or Gold frequent flyers regardless of where in the plane they are seated. These travellers eligible for priority boarding will be invited to board the plane first, but can, of course, walk up at any time.
The economy cabin will be divided into four sections, with passengers assigned to a particular group based on their seating location within the aircraft. Passengers in the ‘front middle’ and ‘back middle’ zones, who don’t hold Gold or higher status, will be called first, with the ‘front middle’ block boarding from the front of the plane and the ‘back middle’ block using the rear door. Once they’ve settled in, passengers in the very front and very back will then board the plane, respectively from the front and rear doors.
To support this new structure, Qantas will revamp the seating and layout of its departure gates to reduce congestion at the gate and minimize the duration passengers spend standing in slowly shuffling lines. Digital signage will be installed at the gates to help direct passengers to the appropriate group, while their individual boarding groups or zones will appear on their printed or digital boarding pass.
Trials and Implementation
Qantas will begin trialling this new domestic boarding system in June on selected flights from Brisbane. After assessing how the system works in practice and what other measures might help streamline the boarding process, more Brisbane routes will be added to the trial. Other domestic airports will then follow, with a national rollout planned for October. The system is expected to be in place across the Qantas domestic and international network by October 2023.
As Qantas follows in the footsteps of its oneworld alliance partners, like American Airlines, and adopts a group boarding system, it is clear the airline is committed to improving the customer experience and the efficiency of its operations. While the system may take some getting used to for passengers, it represents a significant step towards streamlined, organized, and efficient boarding that is likely to make the start of the journey smoother for passengers and help more flights get away on time.