London's Gatwick airport is testing out new technology to board passengers by individual seat, which could be faster and avoid long lines

gatwick boarding

Gatwick Airport/Business Insider

  • London's Gatwick airport is running a two-month trial of ways to speed up plane boarding, including boarding passengers based on their individual seat number.
  • The trial has a sophisticated order that favors filling the back of the plane first, and prioritizing window seats over middle and aisle seats. The idea is that passengers will therefore spend less time squeezing past each other.
  • The airport said that its models show this could speed boarding up by 10%, and that it could remove the need to line up to board planes.
  • A spokesman said that passengers who paid for priority boarding or need special assistance will still get on first.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

London's Gatwick airport is running a trial scheme that it claims can speed up passenger boarding by around 10% by boarding people based on their individual seat number.

Gatwick, the UK's second-biggest airport, has started a two-month test to experiment with different boarding patterns, using a screen to call out each seat, with the aim of maximizing efficiency.Advertisement

Various configurations include boarding passengers at the back first, starting with passengers who have window seats, followed by middle seats, and then the aisle seats.

The passengers, Gatwick said, will be told when to board based on their seat number by "large digital screens." It says the scheme can avoid lines and congestion at boarding gates.

This graphic from Gatwick Airport shows how passengers are told when to board. This configuration fills every "A" window seat first, followed by every "B" middle seat:
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Boarding by seat number graphic

Gatwick Airport.

The screen tells passengers in some seat numbers when to board, and tells others to start preparing while others are told to stay waiting. This configuration starts with those sitting at the back of the plane and by the windows.

Under this plan, passengers who miss their seat number being called should wait until the end of boarding.The airport said: "Modelling indicates that these techniques may be able to reduce boarding times by up to 10%, compared to conventional methods."Advertisement

A spokesman for Gatwick told Business Insider that the "small trial" is running with EasyJet flights from a single gate: number 101.

He also said that passengers who pay for priority boarding, families, and those who need special assistance would still get to board first.

This graphic shows another information screen, showing the order of priority including the above groups.Advertisement

Gatwick boarding

Gatwick Airport

Priority passengers and those who need assistance board first.

Gatwick said that both the trial's findings and feedback from passengers would be used to decide if the airport ultimately changes its boarding processes.

Abhi Chacko, a technology executive at the airport, said in a statement that "We want to explore whether boarding by seat number will avoid queues in the gate room and when boarding the aircraft."Advertisement

"Early indications are that this new technique has the potential to reduce the overall boarding time.

"By communicating to passengers better and boarding passengers by seat number, we also expect to make the whole boarding experience more relaxing and, potentially, prevent large numbers of passenger rushing forward at any stage."

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