Wednesday, January 04, 2006

another meal in front of a monitor, with anecdote

As I slurp down a full bowl of lentil soup, I am reminded of an interesting lesson I learned earlier this week on the flight back to Boston.

If you've ever flown AirTran (the airline formerly known as ValuJet) then you know about their rather bizarre boarding procedure. I've spent many minutes patiently waiting in the queue as my fellow passengers pause to load oversized bags into overhead compartments while others simply pause for no apparent reason. Alas, we are rather self-absorbed creatures... surely this can't ever actually be more efficient?

As a heated exchange unfolded in front of me, a flight attendant calmly instructed the two arguing women to take their seats, but not before insisting that this method has been "scientifically proven." In response to some skeptical gazes, she quickly admitted "it works better in some cities than in others." My interest piqued, I jokingly asked her "so what are you trying to say about Baltimore?"

"Oh, nothing, Baltimore isn’t nearly as bad as Boston."

"Great, I live there now. Am I the reason?"

"No, no, unless you also live in Chicago and New York – LaGuardia is the worst. I think it’s a big city thing… everyone’s so individualistic."

"But this procedure really works in other parts of the US?"

"Oh yes! All the Midwest cities board incredibly quickly. Maybe they’re more considerate or maybe they’re better at following directions – it just works."

Today, I followed the directions listed on my soup can. Baby steps...


masukomi said...

I'm confused. What's the method that's been scientifically proven? Telling people to take their seats? or was it something else?

kn0thing said...

I'm not sure I fully understand it myself, but you're right, I was referring to the airTran boarding procedure. As far as I can tell, the method involves calling passengers in chunks of rows in a supposedly efficient, but nonetheless bizarre, order.

Irina said...

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression "As pretty as an airport."
- Douglas Adams.

By the way, I just found this blog through some strange sequence of clicks that I can no longer trace back. As if I wasn't spending (wasting?) enough time on reddit already. There go the last remaining bits of my productivity... there, they are gone.

kn0thing said...

...Never to be retrieved again! Sorry Irina, we can't be responsible for lost productivitiy... if people could be, I'd have a score to settle with the good folks over @ Blizzard who were responsible for WoW.

Irina said...

My sophomore year is pretty much a total blur thanks to Starcraft... so I have some hostility toward Blizzard as well.

Reinier Zwitserloot said...

My last flight was with ryanair (the european variant of valujet, really), and they employ a rather simple boarding procedure:

everyone, all at once!

Which is really annoying, because there ARE NO SEAT NUMBERS on the ticket. It's find-your-own-chair in the plane. I don't think I need to illustrate the frantic every man for himself orgy of madness that is the ryanair boarding procedure. If I weren't so comfortable with being cynical about mankind, it might have been disturbing.

Anyway, if you happen to have the luck of flying with an airline that still prints seat numbers on your boarding pass, I find the following to be a very relaxing, and usually possible, boarding procedure:

Sit very close to the gate attendants. If all seats near the gate are occupied, just move to them once the boarding procedure is underway. Just sit there. Let everyone board. Continue working on your iBook, read a magazine, continue reading the latest stephenson, whatever floats your bubble so to speak.

Once the lane is almost all past the attendants, inform the attendants that you'd like to be notified just as they are going to leave. Most gate attendants don't mind and will let you through right prior to when they close. This way, you don't have to stand in line at the gate attendants' queue, and once you finally do go through, most of the line in the plane itself has sorted itself out as well.

YMMV, but it works for me.

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