Qantas will finally introduce priority boarding for domestic flights this week, joining Virgin Australia in offering an ‘express lane’ for business class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers to zip past the queue at the boarding gate.
Business class passengers, Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyer members and anybody holding equivalent oneworld Emerald status will be eligible to skip the boarding gate queue for domestic flights.
Yet this begs the question: do we need priority boarding lanes for local flights?
For international flights, absolutely. Every frequent flyer is a fan of skipping the long lines that form in front ahead of a long-haul flight, especially on larger aircraft where there’s a separate door for those sitting at the pointy end of the plane but only one walkway from the boarding gate.
But for local flights it seems less clear-cut – and comments by AusBT readers under our article announcing that Qantas will launch priority boarding on domestic flights identify both sides of the story.
Of lounge lizards and luggage
For starters, there's the question raised by AlG: "Don't we all hang around the lounge as long as possible and then head to the gate only after the final boarding call?". (That's certainly my habit on both domestic and international flights!).
A similar real-world observation was made by Qantas gate staff following August's trials of priority boarding at Sydney Airport, with some staff telling Australian Business Traveller that the airline's 'premium passengers' tended to stay in the Qantas lounge until the final boarding call, rather than wait around the gate to take advantage of the express lane.
"I really don't get the point of this" agreed Radic00l. "I've never found the scanning of boarding passes to take very long, the longest wait is normally on the airbridge. So you zip through the gate and then wait with everyone else on the airbrige?"
Of course, things come unstuck if there's an unexpected delay at the gate even after the flight has been called in the lounge – that's one area where priority boarding comes into its own.
Another is that it lets you claim your overhead luggage space ahead of other passengers when you're not sitting at the pointy end of the plane, cited Scibo10.
"On a full flight, you can put your carry on in the overhead above you rather than 10 rows back where there is space. It's incredibly hard to get your bag when this happens without having to wait for everyone to get off first."
That's certainly a plus for the many well-organised business travellers who board with only carry-on luggage, even for an overnight or two-night trip.
So who is a 'premium' passenger?
We also note that both in AusBT comments and on Twitter, Qantas copped some criticism for restricted its domestic priority boarding to Platinum-level frequent flyers (along with business class travellers, of course).
By comparison, Virgin Australia's priority boarding scheme is open to Velocity Gold members as well as Velocity Platinum.
Naturally, nobody will look this gift horse in the mouth: if there's a priority lane, business travellers and frequent flyers are going to use it.
But if you've got any opinions on the merits or otherwise of domestic priority boarding, either in support of those raised here or calling a counterpoint, have your say in the Comments box below!
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.