Here’s an entry in my new “solve this” cateogry, which asks for reader input on solving problems.
When flying on a very full flight yesterday, we had an example of what my approach for faster airplane loading would have helped with. But until we get that, are there other solutions?
On the full flight, passengers would stand in the aisle trying to store their bags. With the compartments full they took a long time doing it, sometimes found themselves unable to. This blocked the loading and even though we started boarding 30 minutes before the flight, we were not finished by departure time. The flight attendants were on the PA every few minutes telling people not to stand in the aisle, to instead step into the row and let people pass, but very few paid attention to it. We don’t seem inclined to do this, and not just because we are desperate for storage space. (I’m one of the desperate, I carry on fragiles like camera gear that I refuse to let them throw around.) We just don’t believe that our own efforts will slow things much, and we also believe it will take “just a few more seconds” to get the bag in right.
One extreme idea would be to not allow passengers to open the overhead compartments until it is announced you may do so! That seems counter-intuitive, delaying the loading of bags to save time. But in fact, faced with this, people would have nothing else to do but go into their seat with their bag on their laps, or stand up with it on the seat. Then the call could tell people to start loading.
The compartments would probably need an alarm on them that would go off during the period when they are blocked. They would not be blocked for first class passengers, pre-boarders or perhaps even premium frequent flyers allowed to board early.
One consequence of this rule would be that there would be no great reason to get on the plane outside the order rows are called. It’s not going to get better storage for your bags. It does mean aisle seat passengers will get better storage for their bags. It will strongly encourage the use of the underseat storage — though I freely admit I much prefer footroom to use of the underseat storage, like everybody else.
This is easy to implement. Small standard closure sensors wired in series back to the control panel, perhaps in blocks by rows, and perhaps an LED and placard to indicate when access is barred.
To get closer to today’s system which does give preference to those on first, the compartments could be unalarmed in small batches. Ie. load people, then give one minute for storage, then ask that all be closed and re-enable the alarm for more loading.
And of course, on non-full flights, you don’t have to use this at all.
What other systems might encourage people to step into their row when people are stalled behind them? After all, that’s all that’s truly needed here. Just a sense of when you are holding everybody up. It’s enough to step into the row, wait for several to pass until things bunch up more naturally, and then store the bag, if this could be coordinated some way.