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Priority boarding for domestic flights: so what’s the big deal?

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, business class, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Velocity, Virgin Australia, Velocity Rewards, priority boarding, Velocity Frequent Flyer

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!

 
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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.

 

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1 on 21/11/11 by scibo10

David

Thanks for the follow-up article. 

My understanding regarding Virgin Australia is that only Business, Premium Economy, Velocity Platinum & Golds can use Priority Boarding.  It is not open to Flexi-fare holders without Velocity status.

1 on 21/11/11 by Al

I also thought that flexi fares could use the Virgin priority lane, as a condition of their fare, didn't know this was only if you were also a Velocity member. But so you're saying that any Velocity card-holder on a flexi fare can use the priority lane or just Gold and Platinum?

2 on 21/11/11 by David

Thanks mate, have confimed this is indeed just Biz, Plat and Gold – the Flexi-fare ref was for priority check-in, not priority boarding, and so the lines at check-in would have been a bunch of high-profile status-matched QF members taking full advantage of their newly-minted Gold and Platinum cards! Mea culpa! :)

2 on 21/11/11 by jamesp

As I was boarding the first of four flights last week (all Qantas, two domestic, two international), the nice Qantas bloke at the check-in counter said "there are so many platinums and chairmans club members that there's no point at all being gold".

I'd have to agree - there was a time I'd get a free upgrade one flight in four. I haven't been able to points upgrade in the last 18 months as the pointy end of the plane is always full of platinums. There was even a time that people who paid for Qantas Club were treated with the same priority as business class customers.

Until recently whenever Qantas boarded a domestic flight by row number, they would always say "cc, platinum and gold ff's are welcome to board at any time". I'm guessing that this change means gold's are no longer welcome?

3 on 17/1/12 by AirportAddict

I would way rather just spend more time in the lounge and let my name be called over the loud speaker... as long as you make your flight in the end!

1 on 7/10/12 by ACUTE MEDICINE

I AGREE

4 on 7/10/12 by ACUTE MEDICINE

i love it....i get to chillax before my flight,get my bags put safe away by the crew and be bought to me on arrival, and also get to leave the aircraft 1st,its saves time,pushy people and extra room ,,its all about comfort to me

5 on 8/3/13 by gippsflyer

While some do prefer being the very last to board, I do like domestic priority boarding. As a mobility impaired traveller (who only travels J these days) I like to have a little time to board the aircraft without the threat of being trampled on (because to some people, boarding is a race, despite pick your own seating no longer being part of the Australian domestic experience), and as I only travel carry-on (just one overnight bag, unlike those who seem to bring everything but the kitchen sink onboard, even in J) I like to ensure my bag can go into the overhead above my seat, where I can access it mid-flight if needed (for medication and other essentials). The fact that means I can enjoy a more leisurely pre-flight drink and intro from those friendly Virgin cabin crew is just an added bonus.

And as a recent flight experience attests, where an unpleasant American (travelling in a suit on Sunday!) quickly rushed on board after me, ignored that the FA was trying to help me with my bag, and immediately filled the overhead bin with not one but two large bags (well in excess of entitlement), to then complain that his seat had my bag on it (from where the FA was trying to retrieve it), any extra time you have to avoid the obxious upgrader (I was only one of two J fare pax in the Biz cabin that day) is a blessing. 

 

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