Southwest testing front AND back door boarding and disembarking at 3 California airports

Southwest has long used an A-B-C group boarding system hierarchy with self-assigned seating.  Your position is generally based on your elite status and your time of check-in, although you have the option of purchasing and securing a spot in the A group with Early Bird Check-in.  At Sacramento, Long Beach, and Burbank airports in California, Southwest has been implementing boarding and disembarking from both the standard jetbridge at the front of the plane and an outdoor boarding with a airstair at the rear of the plane in a process dubbed as "dual-door operations".

This process essentially halves the boarding and disembarking time, and passengers are given the option of either using the jetbridge or taking a stroll on the tarmac to the outdoor airstair.  The procedure has drawn praise from both passengers and airport staff and controllers alike, stating that if improves overall efficiency and turn times, which is the measure of the time from when the plane locks at the gate and leaves again.  The nationwide average turn time is 42 minutes, but Southwest has downed that to as low as 10 minutes with dual-door operations at these smaller airports.

In addition to significantly quicker turn times and decreases chances for delays, passengers don't have to wade through a sea of crowds in the aisle when it comes to self-boarding.  Those taking the tarmac option also love taking selfies with their jets.

Boarding Group A no longer a big deal?

Passengers who paid for EarlyBird Check-in or Southwest's elite A-list members who automatically receive priority boarding have raised concerns that dual-door operations may eliminate the assurance that they would remain among the first to board the plane.  But Southwest doesn't open the rear door for boarding until pre-boarding and priority boarding is completed, and most passengers boarding from the back tend to select seats in the middle or back of the plane.  In other words, Group A boarders should still be the first to board the plane and select the best seats near the front of the plane.

Quick thoughts

It's great to see Southwest, the maverick of the U.S. airline industry, implement new methods of boarding and disembarking planes to improve efficiency and customer sanctification.  Whereas not all passengers will fancy going down and up the stairs to the back of the plane, particularly on rainy days, Southwest's dual-door operations presents itself as a simple yet economical way to cut down turn times, which could enhance on-time performance for both the carrier and these three California airports.  Will you be boarding from the rear of the plane next time?


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