Ever since Orville and Wilbur Wright tossed a coin to decide who would board the first biplane, boarding an aircraft has been a fraught and long-winded affair.
Now though, an American airline is trying to banish one of the greatest annoyances of boarding a modern passenger aircraft– the battle to find space for your carry-on luggage in an overhead compartment near your seat.
In a headline-grabbing move that airline executives hope will take some of the stress out of the boarding process and reduce expensive delays before take-off, Delta is to offering a “preload” service for carry-on bags on certain flights from this summer.
The new “Early Valet” system will offer passengers on busy US routes the chance to have a steward take their luggage from them at the gate and place it in the compartment above their seat. The hope is that the new wheeze will reduce the impact of the frantic scramble for seats as passengers battle each other for space in overhead compartments near their seats.
Airlines frequently tweak their boarding and luggage procedures to reduce delays and reduce aircraft turnaround time, with competing schools of thought focusing on assigned and free-for-all seating methods, while passengers attempt to scramble aboard regardless.
Raymond Kollau, founder of Amsterdam-based trends research agency Airline Trends, said: “This is another example of how airlines are looking for creative solutions to this issue, as no magic solution has been found yet. For example, other airlines have come up with algorithms to determine the best sequence of boarding, or let passengers without hand luggage board first.”
10 best hand luggage
10 best hand luggage
1/10 Antler Juno Cabin Suitcase
Available in a range of colours, this smart cabin case is light but really tough, so knocks and bumps won’t mark it. The wheels turn 360 degrees, making it easy to manoeuvre through the crowds. £120, amazon
2/10 Briggs & Riley Expandable two-Wheel 15in Laptop Briefcase
So confident is this company that this bag will see you through decades of business travel that there’s a lifetime performance guarantee that even covers airline damage. There are compartments for all your files and gadgets and it’s lightweight and water-resistant. £239, amazon
3/10 Lotus Trunki
Kids need hand luggage, too, and Trunkis, made from the same lightweight, durable plastic as adult cases, double up as sit-on vehicles which parents can pull along or little ones can get going themselves. This Lotus F1 Team version will have children zooming along to the gate. £49.99, trunki.com
4/10 Vida Vida Leather Weekend Bag
If executive-looking luggage leaves you cold, this vintage-inspired bag is a cool alternative that will look better with age. With three external pockets, you’ll be able to pack a lot in. Available in three sizes, and it can be personalised, so makes a good present. £195, notonthehighstreet.com
5/10 IT World’s Lightest Cabin Bag
At just over half a kilo, this 25-litre bag doesn’t weigh much. There is still plenty of room for your stuff for an overnight stay, there are a couple of pockets and it has a detachable shoulder strap for easy carrying. £16, amazon
6/10 Kelty Wing BackPack
Backpacks are having a moment in 2014. And let’s face it, they make lugging your bits and pieces around that bit easier. This one, an updated version of a 1983 model, has a 28-litre capacity, and unlike many rucksacks it has plenty of good-sized compartments, including a handy laptop sleeve. £89, amazon
7/10 Samsonite Firelite
This cabin-size case weighs less than a large bottle of water, yet is as tough as they come. It’s sold with a 10-year guarantee so it’s an investment to see you through the next decade of trips. It’s available in a variety of colours – this red one will always be easy to spot on the luggage rack. £226, amazon
8/10 Cath Kidston Button Spot Wheeled Business Bag
Business luggage doesn’t have to be dull. This polka-dot-patterned case has pockets designed to hold tablets, laptops and ring binders. And there is plenty of space for your clothes and toiletries, too. £105, cathkidston.com
9/10 Billabong Globe Trotter Cabin Luggage
As soon as you dig this out to start packing, the tropical design from the surf specialists will make you feel holiday-ready. Inside there are zipped compartments to keep valuables safe, and when wheeling is not practical, there’s a detachable shoulder strap. £75.99, surfdome.com
10/10 Kate Spade Steamline Luggage
Kate Spade’s bright designs are huge in the US. This luxury vintage-style case has been brought into the 21st century with yellow detailing and a bold geometric-patterned interior. You get a removable wash bag, too. £428, selfridges.com
In the UK several budget firms, including EasyJet and Ryanair, have already experimented with encouraging customers to purchase approved carry-on luggage to speed up the process, while other airlines have experimented with letting passengers board early if you do not have aisle-clogging carry-on bags, such as wheelie suitcases.
The American schemes follows moved in Europe to abolish free-for-all boarding to speed up departure and save airlines money. In 2012 EasyJet attempted to end the desperate rush for prime seats on low-cost flight by launching allocated seating across its network for the first time. Ryanair followed the following year, scrapping its free-for-all seating policy, while offering passengers the chance to sit together if they paid £5 to pick a seat.
Last year Dutch airline KLM introduced a boarding process called “Smart Boarding”, which sees passengers issued with a boarding number and called forward by large screens, only allowing one person at a time to board the aircraft.
The Delta service is being introduced this week after trials last summer in Atlanta and Los Angeles. It follows research that showed every minute a plane stands idle at the gate costs the airline £20, adding up to vast sums across the industry, according to AP.
Gary Leff, co-founder of frequent-flier website MilePoint, said the service would be of the biggest benefit to passengers who were running late or were left until last to join the aircraft, who often board to find full overhead bins, but said that higher staffing costs would make it unviable in the long run. He told AP: "This has the potential to come across as a nice, high-end service, but I'm sceptical that it will go mainstream.”
Nick Gates, from aviation firm SITA’s baggage team, said: "Having airline staff pre-load carry-on bags must be of interest, particularly for passengers who don't find it easy to put their bags into the overhead lockers, such as passengers with children and those that find it physically challenging to lift their bags. Reducing the time taken to turnaround aircraft by speeding the boarding process can certainly help improve on-time flight departures, which can lead to reduced costs for airlines.
Delta’s new service will focus on the busiest airports and holiday flyers, as the airline tries to find out if its staff can load carry-on luggage faster than its passengers. It is not being offered on business routes; presumably because business travellers know how to board a plane efficiently.Reuse content