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Gatwick trials new boarding methods to cut delays

The airport believes it can shave three minutes off the time it takes to board a typical short-haul flight.

A two-month trial of new boarding methods has been launched at Gatwick (Gareth Fuller/PA)
A two-month trial of new boarding methods has been launched at Gatwick (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

New techniques aimed at reducing aircraft boarding delays are being tested at Gatwick Airport.

A range of methods is being trialled at the West Sussex airport to discover whether they make the boarding process faster and more relaxing.

One sequence involves seating people from the back row to the front row with window seats first, followed by middle seats and then aisle seats.

Gatwick believes it is possible to use the new system to complete boarding for a typical short-haul flight in 14 minutes, which is around three minutes quicker than normal.

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Gatwick is trialling a number of new boarding methods (Gatwick/PA)

The two-month pilot is being carried out in the North Terminal on Airbus A320 aircraft with six seats across.

Passengers who have booked priority boarding or those who require special assistance will continue to board planes first.

The UK’s second busiest airport will consider the impact of the new methods and feedback from passengers before deciding whether to continue with the concept after the pilot scheme ends.

Analysis of Civil Aviation Authority data by the PA news agency found that Gatwick had the fourth worst punctuality performance of major UK airports in 2018, with departing flights delayed by an average of 18 minutes.

Gatwick’s head of enabling technologies and digital innovation Abhi Chacko said: “We want to explore whether boarding by seat number will avoid queues in the gate room and when boarding the aircraft.

“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.”

A spokeswoman for easyJet, which is the airline initially involved in the trial, said: “We continually look at different technologies and innovations which could make customer journeys easier.

“Gatwick is our largest base and they approached us about commencing a boarding trial. A small number of easyJet flights that use Gate 101 are taking part in the trial initially.

“This isn’t something we are looking to implement across our network but will work with Gatwick to study the results of their trial when it closes.”

PA

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