Qantas brings ‘group boarding’ to Sydney, Melbourne flights

Qantas is now boarding domestic flights by passenger groups: here’s what you need to know.

By David Flynn, June 12 2024
Qantas brings ‘group boarding’ to Sydney, Melbourne flights

Qantas will extend its rollout of ‘group boarding’ to Australia’s two busiest airports this month, following its debut in Brisbane and Perth over the past two weeks.

Domestic Qantas Airbus A330 and Boeing 737 flights out of Melbourne will see pasengers board through one of six designated groups beginning June 17, while Sydney will follow on June 25.

Each passenger’s boarding group will be displayed on their printed or digital boarding pass; group boarding will be extended to other airports and other aircraft types once passengers become more familiar” with the system.

Already common at airports around the world, especially in the USA and across Europe, the adoption of group boarding is intended to both streamline the process of passengers and also help more flights depart on time.

Early feedback on Qantas’ group boarding on flights from Brisbane has been largely positive, with many passengers citing both the more orderly progression from gate to seat as well as the inability of low- or no-status travellers to jump the queue thanks to how the boarding pass scanners have been programmed.

Qantas has been trialling and refining its own group boarding system since late 2023: “we’re continuing to look for ways to respond to pain points and improve the travel experience for our customers,” explained Qantas Domestic CEO Markus Svensson.

How Qantas group boarding works

Qantas’ long-standing domesic boarding system essentially saw two long snaking lines at the gate: there’s one lane for priority passengers (business class plus Gold and above frequent flyers) and another lane for, well, everybody else.

Under Qantas group boarding, passengers are allocated to one of six boarding groups which will be displayed on their boarding pass.

Those groups are determined by their cabin (business class is of course Group 1), frequent flyer status and where they are seated in the aircraft.

Boarding groups will be displayed on printed and digital boarding passes.
Boarding groups will be displayed on printed and digital boarding passes.

The six Qantas domestic boarding groups are as follows:

  • Group 1 offers priority boarding for business class passengers and any top-tier frequent flyers holding Qantas Platinum, Platinum One or Oneworld Emerald status – along with invitation-only Chairman’s Lounge members, of course
  • Group 2 offers priority boarding for Qantas Gold and Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers
  • Group 3 is for economy passengers seated in the rear quarter of the plane
  • Group 4 is for economy passengers seated in the third quarter of the plane
  • Group 5 is for economy passengers seated in the second quarter of the plane
  • Group 6 is for economy passengers seated in the first quarter of the plane

(And before you ask: there’s no priority or special group for Silver frequent flyers or Qantas Club members.)

Apart from those passengers who enjoy priority boarding, this is your classic and very sensible ‘rear-to-front’ boarding system.

And while passengers eligible for Group 1 priority boarding will invited to board the plane first, they can of course walk up at any time (as many prefer to stay a little longer in the lounge before heading to the departure gate).

Some travellers with lounge access might prefer to stay in the lounge a little longer...
Some travellers with lounge access might prefer to stay in the lounge a little longer...



Note that Gold-grade frequent flyers are no longer in the ranks of the current Priority Boarding group, although they’ll still board ahead of almost everyone else in economy.

This will certainly thin out the early boarding ranks and will be especially useful on the east coast ‘triangle’, where it often seems like there are more people in the frequent flyer-laden premium boarding line than low-status and no-status passengers.

Qantas exec Svensson adds that from a passenger’s perspective, group boarding should reduce the time they need to spend in line at the boarding gate “and allows them to get settled more quickly” once on the plane. 

Qantas says boarding groups will be strictly enforced.
Qantas says boarding groups will be strictly enforced.

Announcements will be made at the gate when it is time for each group to board, and the boarding pass scanner will only permit travellers to board once their group has been invited, so there’ll be no jumping the queue.

Group boarding is of course far from innovative – most North American and many European airlines already pre-sort passengers into groups based on their frequent flyer status or where they are seated – but as international travellers can attest, the system works well when it’s properly managed and policed at the gate.

03 Jun 2024

Total posts 1

If Airlines want Passengers to board quickly then they should police their own carry On Policy rather than allow passengers to bring everything including the kitchen sink on board looking for that elusive piece of overhead bin space. Not all Passengers do this I might add.... 

06 Feb 2013

Total posts 14

Except that every time someone is questioned about their luggage they argue and complain and say “But I always bring this luggage” and this conversation delays boarding. The policy wouldn’t need policing if people just complied with the rules. 

Lmc
Lmc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 106

Finally! What else to say…. 

I do want to know if family members booked together will be able to board together with me as a group 1 passenger, similar to seat selection?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jun 2019

Total posts 3

Good question, when I travel with my wife and son do we all have to wait to board in our groups or can we all go when plats are called?   

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2013

Total posts 49

Good question! I suppose if you're seated next to each other in the same class, then yes I presume so. I imagine age (minors) will come into it as well. 

But if it were solely based on your status (and your family doesn't have status) it would be interesting to see what happens in practice. The question would be does YOUR status entitle your family or booking members to status benefits in this way? Will be good to get some guidance.

Virgin Blue - Velocity Rewards

12 May 2011

Total posts 22

Probably depends on who made the booking. Surely boarding priority would be based on the travelling member with the highest status

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 382

Quite happy that queue jumpers get denied by the scanner. Avoids staff having to police it. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 161

I think this will be great. If it works and is policed properly. Also great move putting gold FF as a group by itself.   The currwnt system doesn't work as Qantas regularly use 1 lane to board priority and 1 lane for regular pax at the same time instead of boarding priority through both lanes first. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 May 2017

Total posts 17

Flew out of Brisbane yesterday morning and saw this in effect. Didnt know it was that close to starting but quickly found this article which answered all my questions!  

Very happy to see this change as something definitely needed to happen with the out of control lines. Love that the scanner doesn’t work if your group is not yet called as a way of policing it. Very sensible. 

I assume it worked well. I was luckily flying in business so was included in the first group. 

Missed this the first time I read the article but I do like this inclusion:

  • in the case of several travellers flying together, Qantas says their boarding priority will default to that of the highest-status member if the bookings are linked

15 Oct 2022

Total posts 1

Does this mean those on last are going to find their overhead locker space 'colonised' by the time they get on?

26 Sep 2023

Total posts 9

I wonder about this as well, but at least on those golden triangle routes the front 5-8 rows of Economy are people who probably got status boarding anyway. There could be an interesting gamble for Silver on whether to get off the plane faster with a row 9, or know you'll have overhead in row 28.

(on a recent 8am SYD-MEL, the CSM had their iPad open and while waiting for the aisle to clear I saw there was something like 45 Gold FF, plus another 12 or so P and a good half dozen P1).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 161

Does this mean those on last are going to find their overhead locker space 'colonised' by the time they get on?

Probably but that's no different to how it works now, on any airline worldwide.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Sep 2011

Total posts 9

I hope the lounge staff will be annnouncing boarding a bit earlier for Group 1 & 2 pax in the lounge. Currently they announce a flight is boarding and by the time you get to the gate they've already started boarding everyone else and you're stuck at the back of the airbridge and have no room for a bag in your overhead locker due to horders that take 3 bags on board.

LJC
LJC

15 Sep 2016

Total posts 6

Is this going to apply to Jetstar flights as well?  Over here in (forgotten) WA Qantas no longer operate some flight routes, leaving these to Jetstar to operate.  Jetstar is fine, but boarding is a bit of a shambles (and Jetstar has no supplied entertainment and a very strangely inefficient and time-consuming way of operating their very basic food and beverage service).

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 382

Last I checked, apart from a couple leisure routes Jetstar doesn't fly any exclusive routes taken over from Qantas. Certainly no capital cities or intra-WA routes are Jetstar only.

28 Apr 2021

Total posts 24

David a very well presented article that not only comprehensively outlined the 'nuts and bolts' on how the boarding system is designed to operate, but also it referred to those about to board the Aircraft as "Passengers" that in fact is the correct terminology.

However, the Qantas Domestic CEO threw in his bit in the article about the boarding process and said there is an aim to improve the travel experience for the customer. Does he mean the "Passenger"?

Little does he realize that a number of travelers might be on transit from another airline or in fact not purchased their ticket from Qantas!

One has to really wonder when the top brass in this beleaguered Airline will finally wake up and drop off the use this totally inappropriate word introduced well over 20 years ago by 'jimmy bow tie'. It known that quite a number of Cabin Crew Managers do not like the reference CSM and many regular "Passengers" detest being customers when on board. 

Two points of interest are is that the those in the Flight deck when making an announcement avoid using that word and when there is an incident, how quickly in reporting the details, all of a sudden the reference "Passengers' is used by Qantas. Talk about 'double standards'.

Finally one most important issue commented on was the extra amount of carry on items that is continuing proving to be causing a delay in the filling up the space in the overhead lockers.  Perhaps high on his agenda, the Qantas Domestic CEO should be to sort this problem out and have the situation policed at the point of check in and even prior to boarding. 

19 Oct 2018

Total posts 8

I am all for it so long as it is policed right, to keep those impolite / inconsiderate PAX inline. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Sep 2017

Total posts 6

Pre-book a wheelchair, you'll board first, problem solved


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