For the most part, boarding a domestic flight can be a frustrating experience. With just one door shared by anywhere from 170- to 300-odd passengers, who are funnelled from the departure gate though the chokehold of a narrow aerobridge walkway, it's a tedious routine of shuffle-wait, shuffle-wait,
But Qantas may have stumbled on the best way to turn that into a smoother, more streamlined and even more relaxing experience.
The airline calls it "sequenced boarding" – a measure introduced as part of the Fly Well initiative to give passengers 'peace of mind' in the crowd-averse coronavirus era – but it could also prove a slim silver lining on the dark and heavy Covid cloud.
Last week, Executive Traveller made a quick Sydney-Melbourne trip to experience first-hand the new shape of domestic travel (click here to read our full review).
Something were keen to observe was the boarding process, which by necessity involves leaving plenty of space between passengers in accordance with social distancing requirements. You'd expect this could mean a longer line, and that boarding itself would take longer too.
However, Qantas' gate staff called passengers for boarding in reverse row order – that is, starting from the rear of of the plane.
There was still a seperate Premium Boarding lane for business class, Platinum- and Gold-grade frequent flyers, who could board at any time – and Qantas appears to finally be doing this right following a November 2019 reboot of its priority boarding process.
But everybody else was called forward based on their row number, starting from the last rows of the A330's economy cabin and moving forward in blocks of five rows – a maximum of 40 passengers at a time
With 190 economy passengers on this Airbus A330 flight, the boarding process ran pretty much hassle-free. People were easily able to get to their seat without much standing around, and stow their cary-on luggage in the locker right above or very close to their seat.
Meanwhile, passengers with seating closer to the front of the plane seemed quite content to relax at the departure gate until it was 'their turn'.
Of course, this is just one way to efficiently board a flight beyond the usual 'cattle call', and there's been plenty of research – scientific and practical – done into all those methods.
And while there are many things we look forward to returning to normal in the coming months – the reopening of airport lounges, the return of the inflight tipple, switching inflight WiFi and movies back on – we wouldn't mind seeing "sequenced boarding" stay on the cards.