Last week I flew out of Burbank for the first time in ages. Southwest operates roughly 7 million flights out of the diminutive Terminal A and I’ve grown to love Southwest the same way I love chicken fingers. They both don’t try to be anything they’re not. They’re not dressing themselves up as some sort of luxury experience. They’re simple, reliable, and get the job done. If I were in charge of marketing for SWA, I’d change the tagline to “No frills done right” because that’s the biggest appeal for me. Buy your relatively cheap ticket, check in, and board when your number is called. It’s the discount deli counter of airlines.
The entire experience was pleasant — quaint, even — until it came time to board the plane. As a middle child, I’m always nervous if something isn’t specifically reserved for me. Thanksgiving served family style is reason enough for me to break out in a cold sweat the night before. With Southwest’s boarding system, I get plenty anxious about not having enough bin space or seats when it’s my turn to board.
On my flight last week, I was in the low Bs along with my fiancee. Anything under B10 is usually a guaranteed window seat and bin space, but Burbank threw a wrench into the plans. With such a small terminal, BUR still makes you walk out onto the tarmac to board and for Southwest planes, that means boarding in the front and the back. I have no experience dual-boarding an SWA plane, so I didn’t know that the back was the way to go when it came my turn to board. Instead of putting my bag up and getting right into a seat, I got stuck behind slowpokes in front of me and while they were fussing with their baggage, I watched as all the good seats in the back filled up.
By the time I got myself free, both my fiancee and I were stuck with middle seats in concurrent rows. Gross. Luckily, we were able to find spots for our bags but the entire flight was an armrest battle on two different fronts. The only saving grace was that we were flying to Vegas, just a short hourlong flight.
So what’s the fix? It’s easy. Don’t board from both sides of the plane. I doubt it saves much time in the long run anyway. Instead, board exclusively from the back of the plane. Think about it: if you board from the back, odds are that the front seats get taken first anyway. While the passengers up there are getting situated, other people can start taking their seats instead of waiting for those in front of them. It would create a domino effect of efficiency. This makes sense, right? I’m not crazy. I promise.
Southwest? Are you listening? This is some genius management consulting here and I’m not even charging. Start boarding exclusively from the back and you’ll board your planes faster and your passengers will be happier. Everybody wins!