Here's how Qantas can make priority boarding actually work

Here's how Qantas can make priority boarding actually work

TALKING POINT | Any traveller on a domestic Qantas flight can attest that the airline's approach to priority boarding simply does not work. And it's hard to understand why, especially when so many other airlines including its competitor Virgin Australia get priority boarding right.

I've flown as a business class passenger or a top tier frequent flyer with dozens of airlines for whom priority boarding is not rocket science. It's just be a matter of common sense. So here is how Qantas could make priority boarding actually work.

1. Board business class first

Priority boarding is all about giving priority to your most valued customers, and that does not mean letting everyone board at the same time through two different lanes. It should begin with inviting business class passengers to board ahead of anybody else.

2. Board frequent flyers next

Once the line for business class passengers is about done it's time for Platinum One and Platinum frequent flyers seated in economy to be invited to board. They fly often enough to be well organised and quickly put their carry-on bags into the overhead locker and settle into their seat, which makes the overall boarding process faster.

But more importantly, they contribute a lot to Qantas' bottom line and shouldn't have to queue up and struggle to find space in the locker directly above their seat.

Once Platinum One and Platinum frequent flyers are on board, get Golds up to the head of the queue.

3. Board everyone else last

With your most frequent flyers on the plane and probably already in their seat, it's time to open the floodgates to the rest of the economy class passengers.

4. Keep the priority boarding lane open

Not all priority passengers will be patiently waiting at the departure gate when the flight is called. Many business class passengers and frequent flyers could still be in the lounge and will not actually leave until the PA announcement that boarding has begun, so they need to be able to take precedence over everyone else at any time during the boarding process. That includes the super-efficient and just plain late passengers who turn up minutes before boarding closes.

That's all there is to it. Four simple steps which will make Qantas priority boarding quick and organised and hassle-free, and that's exactly what it is supposed to be.

 

79 comments

  • Steve987

    Steve987

    20 Sep, 2018 06:27 am

    Why not just adopt AA’s (and I’m sure others) approach of printing a group on the boarding pass. That way position on he plane can also be taken into account as well. Seems to work well enough.
    Members who gave thanks

    cbourl, mallee, mushmush

  • Dan Kelly

    Dtknz

    20 Sep, 2018 10:34 am

    I agree AA’s use of groups works... especially when they send people away who try to board ahead of their group.
    Member who gave thanks

    cbourl

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    20 Sep, 2018 07:12 am

    All they have to do is enforce the process.. Check the pass and, if the person is not entitled to board yet, send them to the back of the queue.

    QF could also speed boarding if they moved to dual door boarding on 737s like VA but, for whatever reason, they choose not to.
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  • Dredgy

    Dredgy

    20 Sep, 2018 11:01 am

    Flown QF twice this week between BNE and MEL and both times the 737 used dual door at both ends.
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  • GregXL

    GregXL

    20 Sep, 2018 03:23 pm

    I did SYD-BNE on a QF 737 a week ago and they also boarded at both ends
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  • GBRGB

    GBRGB

    20 Sep, 2018 08:04 am

    It still won’t stop people just barging in as soon as they see movement at the gate, it needs staff to tell people they can’t, just like the current boarding lanes, they would work fine if they were enforced. The issue I see is that it is the cabin staff who actually process the passengers and they can’t tell what status people have until they scan people’s boarding passes, cards or phones, but by then it’s too late and they are already processed. I would suggest some of the many terminal staff that seem to be sitting around the departure gates start standing at the entrance to the boarding lanes for the first few minutes when a flight is called and checking that people are in the correct lane.
    Member who gave thanks

    cbourl

  • Robert Vilkaitis

    RobV

    26 Sep, 2018 04:16 pm

    Surely as they scan the ticket they can say, "Sorry sir/madam (if you can say that nowadays?) this is reserved for priority boarding please join the other queue?" Doesnt seem hard to do.
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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    27 Sep, 2018 08:18 pm

    Once the pass has been scanned, the computer thinks they are on the plane. If they've been sent away without having been manually deboarded, they could just disappear while everyone thinks they are on board.
    Otherwise, they'll get an error which would then need resolving once they return to the front of the line and scan the pass again.

    Scanning the pass, then not letting them board right then would only lead to more delays.
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  • aggie57

    aggie57

    20 Sep, 2018 08:25 am

    Here’s a counter view. I actually like the idea of being able to board last, the only reason not to as far a I can see is overhead bin space (an issue even when flying 1st in the US).
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  • Dean

    deanr

    20 Sep, 2018 09:03 am

    Qantas can't even get the current process right, where you're either priority or you're not. Why should they make the process even more complicated when the current yes/no concept is beyond their grasp?

    And on top of that, where are the people who are "priority but not priority enough to be called forward just yet" supposed to wait while the higher-priority passengers are boarding, given it can't be in the boarding line, and there simply isn't room at most of Qantas' boarding gates to accommodate more lanes?

    Crazy suggestion... fix the current situation before you make it more complex.
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    20 Sep, 2018 09:10 am

    While it would bring howls of indignation from the few who use domestic J (mostly paid for by companies, govt departments or the Parliaments), if there is only one door on a B738 open (no use of rear door stairs), then a more efficient boarding practice would be to divide the aircraft into 'zones' and start from the back.

    It doesn't solve the problem of stragglers, but might help improve what can be the large number of flights that are late.
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  • Tallfont

    Tallfont

    20 Sep, 2018 09:25 am

    I sincerely hope someone in senior management in Qantas reads this as the current boarding arrangements are a total farce.
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  • sgb

    sgb

    20 Sep, 2018 09:32 am

    Maybe they could resurrect the original Jetstar color coded boarded system, who remembers that?
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  • peteshep

    peteshep

    20 Sep, 2018 09:35 am

    Part of the issue is the ground staff are lazy and do nothing to police the line when it forms - it would only take 2 min for them to walk the queue when it forms to get it organised. Send people to the other queue. Virgin uses ground staff to board whereas Qantas us the FAs. It’s hard for them to send someone back as they have to see them again on the plane so wouldn’t make for a pleasant experience. It’s up to the ground staff to fix it.
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  • blart

    blart

    23 Sep, 2018 10:21 am

    I think this pretty much every week. It would take a few minutes to walk the queue and move people from the priority queue to the regular queue.
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  • Peter Lim

    drpil

    20 Sep, 2018 10:01 am

    I won't even start on priority baggage tags...
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  • bsb

    bsb

    20 Sep, 2018 06:32 pm

    I’m on that page too. I tweet to Qantas everytime I stand waiting for my bag. Nothing changes.
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  • Adam T

    AT

    20 Sep, 2018 10:07 am

    There are way too many boarding priorities right now Biz, Plat, Gold, Club etc etc. I agree with some other posts here just bring it down to 3 groups to simplify things, then gate staff need to manage the logistics.
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  • Dean

    deanr

    20 Sep, 2018 10:19 am

    There's no "etc etc" and Qantas Club doesn't get priority boarding either, it's just business class and high-level frequent flyers.
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  • Adam T

    AT

    20 Sep, 2018 01:14 pm

    Ok, my point is simplify the options. Maybe Group A = Biz, Group B = Status FF, Group C = the rest. But then again, why are we working on this surely it’s someone’a paid job at Qantas to deal with this!!
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  • blart

    blart

    23 Sep, 2018 10:23 am

    If you enforce the two separate lanes properly you can have as many different combinations of boarding as you like. It’s just that the two lanes are not enforced.
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  • GregXL

    GregXL

    20 Sep, 2018 10:19 am

    Last week boarding an A330 at BNE as a J pax, the “priority” queue was as long as the Y queue. When boarding commenced, both queues were boarded simultaneously. If I had joined the Y queue instead, I would have boarded at the same time.
    As others have commented QF are not applying a consistent boarding prioritisation.
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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    20 Sep, 2018 01:35 pm

    Yes, on many Sydney-Melbourne flights it's just as fast to join the normal line as the priority line even if you are Platinum!
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  • tmsmile

    tmsmile

    20 Sep, 2018 10:23 am

    There’s one simple solution... just don’t simultaneously board both lanes (and don’t allow those not entitled). Stop whenever there is a priority passenger. VA does it and it works. The frustrating thing is that it is so simple.
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  • Scott Rawlings

    sra35

    20 Sep, 2018 10:26 am

    As well as QF ground staff not being motivated to police this policy, there are rarely ever more than one of them rostered at a gate at any one time, so they don’t have the recourses to worry about it
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  • Fonga

    Fonga

    20 Sep, 2018 10:47 am

    We used to board according to rows, starting with the back of the plane. I would have thought business pax would prefer to board last, thereby maximising lounge time. Isn't the aim to get us all seated and on our way ASAP?
    On the issue of 'lazy' ground staff and FAs, can we avoid judging people for doing their jobs? For all any us know, they are maybe following company procedure. Is there a QF employee on this site who can tell us?
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • peteshep

    peteshep

    20 Sep, 2018 12:21 pm

    I didn’t say the FAs were lazy. The ground staff are - more often than not when the queues start forming I’ve seen them standing around chatting when they could be getting the queues ready. Whilst there might not be a specific procedure in place, they could easily use some of that idle time to get the system to work rather than not show any initiative. They can see the process failing but choose not to intervene to make it work - that’s laziness.
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  • Jedi

    Jedi

    29 Sep, 2018 02:57 pm

    QF staff just refelecting the mangerial staff
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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    20 Sep, 2018 01:36 pm

    If business passengers are at the gate they will want to board first, and so they should. In fact any time they turn up they should get priority.
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  • Michael63

    Metoo

    20 Sep, 2018 10:54 am

    I remember when Qantas opened the Priority lane to Gold up status. It was faster to go to the Economy lane. There is no monitoring of FF status now. One should just consider there are two lanes to board. I know in parts of SE Asia there is strict observance of Business boarding and seating and I've seen people trying to board early told to stand to the side until their seating is called.
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  • Steve987

    Steve987

    20 Sep, 2018 10:03 pm

    I (as a Platinum) got queried by an FA last week when I was boarding in the economy lane .. well sort of. She started to ask and then looked down the lines and just said, “ah, ok”.
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  • Stm Aus

    stmaus

    21 Sep, 2018 09:03 am

    Lucky you didn't get told off and told to go back to the priority queue!
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  • Jedi

    Jedi

    29 Sep, 2018 02:59 pm

    Yes in my opinion the priority lane boards they put out are just window dressing to make you feel good. In reality they don't mean anything.
    Member who gave thanks

    MelMackay

  • Jazzop

    Jazzop

    20 Sep, 2018 11:07 am

    As difficult as it may be for QF to accept, VA have this right. Business, Platinum and Gold go first. Then everyone else. And leaving the priority lane open. This group is the fastest.

    Let's hope we never get like the American carriers with their multiple board groups.
    Member who gave thanks

    stmaus

  • Craig

    crwilkins

    20 Sep, 2018 11:58 am

    Don’t knock the American carriers here......they move millions of people per day and generally have boarding processes pretty well sorted. No comparison on service in general but they do move the crowds quite effectively, Delta for example has on time flight stats up there with the best and boarding processes are very organised and coordinated. As many have said, not rocket science here.
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  • Jazzop

    Jazzop

    20 Sep, 2018 12:49 pm

    I'll disagree with you there. I fly the US carriers a fair bit and mostly Delta. With 6 zones to board, I find it a general farce.

    It's usually not to bad on a widebody or commuter fleet but on the longer narrow bodies (752, 753, A321, 739) it's generally a hassle.

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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    20 Sep, 2018 01:34 pm

    Yes, US airlines can go way over the top with so many groups!
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  • aggie57

    aggie57

    20 Sep, 2018 02:26 pm

    Agreed. It’s actually amazing to see at large airports like O’Hare or DFW.

    One key difference is that they start boarding much earlier than Australian carriers. You really need to be at the gate 45-60 minutes before departure.

    Interesting though that United is removing the separate lines for each group. Now they have two lanes and call groups up in order.
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  • Morgan

    Morgan27

    20 Sep, 2018 11:52 am

    Its a bit stupid to suggest that Platnium One board after business class as they are generally much more loyal than even business class passengers and should board with or before business class passengers
    Member who gave thanks

    Sarah Banks

  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    20 Sep, 2018 01:39 pm

    As there are no more than 12 business class passengers on any Qantas Boeing 737 and many will still be in the lounge when boarding begins I don't think there would be much of a wait for Platinum Ones to board, although yes it could make them feel more 'recognised' and speed things up a bit if QF called first boarding "for business class passengers and Platinum One frequent flyers", as long as they police this and turn away Platinums and Golds who try to jump the line.
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  • Steve Napier

    Steve Napier

    20 Sep, 2018 11:58 am

    Maybe the ACCC need to get involved. You can’t promise/promote something and then not deliver.
    However, that would be a last resort measure.

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  • moa999

    moa999

    20 Sep, 2018 12:09 pm

    Staff enforcement is the key.

    I'd also add that Virgin's standard gate design which forces pax sitting in the waiting area into the regular queue works well.
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  • readosunnycoast

    readosunnycoast

    20 Sep, 2018 12:35 pm

    QF are just like supermarkets. Have you EVER seen anyone in the supermarket ejected from the 15 items or less aisle for having 22 items? Even when everyone else in the line is really pissed off, they do not want offend the miscreant. QF need to "grow a pair"
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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    20 Sep, 2018 12:52 pm

    Whilst enforcement is an issue, one of the root causes of the whole problem is the lack of space in overhead lockers. People are desperate to get on first so they can put their bag above them rather than having to sacrifice the already tiny footspace under the seat in front of them.

    If Qantas were also to enforce the carry-on limits as well as whatever boarding process it decides on, many of these issues would go away. Fundamentally, it seems to the whole boarding saga issue is gate staff and the cabin crew at the gate are either not empowered to enforce the rules or choose not to.

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  • Stm Aus

    stmaus

    20 Sep, 2018 02:10 pm

    Agreed. Overhead locker space is the only reason I use priority boarding. When I am travelling with just a small backpack, I actually like to board last.
    Member who gave thanks

    MelMackay

  • aggie57

    aggie57

    20 Sep, 2018 02:31 pm

    Exactly........!
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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    20 Sep, 2018 01:33 pm

    I would agree that any form of 'staggered boarding' would be the answer instead of today's 'all at the same time' approach. Could be in numbered groups like US airlines and I think now BA does, could be as the author has suggested by starting with business class and working down.
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  • harry77

    harry77

    20 Sep, 2018 01:39 pm

    Let business passengers on when they want, but with Economy it would make more sense to board window seat pax first, followed by centre sitters, followed by aisles. Getting pax into rows in logical order will mean everyone gets on faster and negate the need for priority boarding.

    Locker access is a separate issue especially on 737s which seem to have the lowest locker volume to passenger ratio around. What QF should do is red-tag bags that are allowed in the locker, not ones that aren't. This could be done based on luggage type and status. Anything overweight by default misses out on a locker tag.
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  • Dave

    Grannular

    20 Sep, 2018 07:54 pm

    Are you suggesting to split families? Does the child in the window seat have to board separately than the parents in middle/aisle seat?
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  • harry77

    harry77

    20 Sep, 2018 10:21 pm

    Not at all but if your kid’s in the window it makes sense that they go into the row first.
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  • IAN ASSUMPTION

    ian62

    20 Sep, 2018 02:20 pm

    Prior to my last flight on QF in F from Sydney to Dubai, I arrived at the gate, knowing the above chronic problems with boarding, and asked the staff member in charge where I should wait. A group of us were asked by her to wait under the "First" sign.
    Subsequently, the other priority line grew to mammoth proportions.
    At the last minute, she yelled out to our group that she couldn't "handle" both lines and delegated our group to the back of the massive queue. A long delay in our boarding ensued.
    A few annoyed passengers moved themselves to the front of the other queue which then caused conflict with that group.
    The First hosts were un helpful and invalidating, even when this issue was raised on the aircraft.
    Inconsistency continues to define this airline.

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  • Stm Aus

    stmaus

    21 Sep, 2018 08:49 am

    Wow, that's pathetic. You can *almost* excuse QF for dropping the ball on shuttle routes like SYD/MEL, but semi flagship international routes with F???? ABQ.
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  • Jedi

    Jedi

    29 Sep, 2018 03:03 pm

    QF consistently inconsistent
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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    20 Sep, 2018 02:25 pm

    I flew Qantas Business one morning this week and Virgin Business in the afternoon. Qantas needs to start sending there staff on Virgin flights, they are so Chalk and Cheese experiences.
    Member who gave thanks

    stmaus

  • vbarberini

    vbarberini

    20 Sep, 2018 02:43 pm

    I remember the good old days (circa 90s) when business class pax would only be called from the lounge once economy had boarded.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Steve987

    Steve987

    20 Sep, 2018 09:59 pm

    The ferry to Macau does this (sort of). There is a holding pen for higher class passengers and they are boarded last. Of course there is a section reserved for their luggage too.
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  • MelMackay

    MelMackay

    22 Nov, 2018 01:58 pm

    A few weeks ago I left the business lounge upon hearing the boarding call (Platinum). Mel-Bris. The gate was further than I expected. They took off without me. No page. Nothing. Unfortunately I had carry on only. I'm still seething.
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  • Flyman

    Flyman

    20 Sep, 2018 04:22 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Pratical idea- move the signage for the Priority lane away from the frount of the que and back toward where the lane tap finshes. To be fair to people who don't travel much, once the scrum forms around the gate, they cant see that they are standing in a Priority lane till they are a couple of people away from the advice sign,

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  • Stm Aus

    stmaus

    21 Sep, 2018 08:51 am

    QF should just copy the VA gate design. Or you can just fly VA!
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  • Dredgy

    Dredgy

    20 Sep, 2018 04:53 pm

    Airlines need to stop selling priority boarding as a benefit - it’s not. Board economy first. That takes a bit of time and kerfuffle - and then grab everyone else from the lounge 10 minutes later.
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  • Doublecatered Johnston

    doublecatered

    20 Sep, 2018 05:20 pm

    Flyman your suggestion about the placement of signage is exactly what I thought as well ... simple easy solution to this ridiculous situation. It won’t solve it completely but it will empower cabin crew to simply point to the sign which is right beside them clearly showing the policy instead of an awkward explanation

    There are so many factors in this .. gate lounge design, pax loads, whether or not the aircraft is delayed etc but if the sign showing which lane u are in is right beside the boarding pass reader, it should alleviate at least some of the issues involved
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  • bsb

    bsb

    20 Sep, 2018 06:34 pm

    I still reckon most Priority pax are waiting on the lounge till the bitter end because unlike most of the world, our domestic lounges are actually quite nice.
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  • superflyer

    superflyer

    20 Sep, 2018 06:37 pm

    The author completely underestimates the numbers of flyers who don't leave the lounge until the flight has been called.

    Why can't they have a self-scanner at the entrance that beeps/green, alerts/red. Then staff can inform passengers upon approach to change lanes if they cheekily proceed.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    20 Sep, 2018 06:42 pm

    I think that most people in the lounge don't leave until their flight is called – I certainly don't! – but as long as there is still a priority lane for them to zip through when they do get to the departure gate, that's sufficient, and it still allows for the people who cut things fine and head straight to the gate or those times the lounge says the flight is 'now boarding' but you get to the gate and discover this has just started!
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Alex_upgrade

    alex_upgrade77

    21 Sep, 2018 12:30 am

    That's true if you're not travelling with a wheelie. But if you board towards the end, chances are you won't get any locker space near you.
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  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    20 Sep, 2018 07:05 pm

    Quite frankly it’s all boring, whiney 1st-world problem stuff typical of the age of (self) entitlement.
    When I travel J/C I don’t want to be boarding first or early, preferably staying in the lounge until late in the process. Same goes for if in Y/C and in the Q Club lounge.
    The tier status and One World entitlement thing is just a monster that airlines have created - a caste system that plays on egos and feeds narcissism, although call it looking after one’s valuable commercial customers if you wish.
    On the “lazy F/A thing”, I am the parent of a child who was one with Qantas for nearly 7 years. Qantas are not a good employer in any way. They don’t support their staff. Yes, I believe they problems with consistency in their product and service -delivery. You never know when you are going to cop the ideal boarding, crew, flight or otherwise experience the “Qantas Mood” thing. Having said that, if Qantas want to fix things perhaps it needs to start from the top down, not from the bottom up.
    I’m quite convinced that if a customer complained to the airline after a F/A sent them to the back of the queue for not being entitled to be in the priority queue, the airline would likely reprimand the F/A for ‘offending’ a customer.
    If we’re in J/C - all good and well. If we’re in Y/C, we’re economy class passengers - all equal 6’ under.
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  • 7OD

    7OD

    20 Sep, 2018 07:30 pm

    I would be curious to know whether enforcing priority boarding actually speeds up the boarding process - the highly regimented US system seems to take forever...
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  • GregXL

    GregXL

    20 Sep, 2018 11:36 pm

    One cause of the long boarding time for US flights is the number of passengers with “roll-aboards”. I have been on 737 flights and been almost alone at the baggage claim.
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  • aggie57

    aggie57

    21 Sep, 2018 02:17 pm

    The logic for US travelers is that they have to pay for checked bags but if overhead bins fill up the airline will valet check their rollers free of charge. Makes sense but yes, can be slow.
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  • Ken Lee

    KenLee

    21 Sep, 2018 02:58 am

    Traveled from MEL-CNS on Wednesday. They literally had EVERYONE boarding through the premium lane including a whole school of kids. The economy (normal line) was closed. How does this even happen? A few business/gold/wp were just standing around waiting for something to be done about it. But nothing was. I can understand a few people lining up in the wrong queue but the whole flight? Seriously? Don't get me started with priority/business bag tags in CNS as well...It is all a lucky draw really.
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  • ramius

    ramius

    21 Sep, 2018 07:28 am

    Gary Walter,

    That is probably the least thought about proposal I had read. Business Class and Qantas Club passengers are in the QF Lounge. They are given a later call to the gate than all other passengers so that they can enjoy their lounge access before flying. Boarding them first is one of the most out of touch suggestions I have ever read?

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  • Joe

    Joe

    21 Sep, 2018 05:21 pm

    Qantas 'priority' boarding & 'priority' luggage....ROFL!
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  • Nick  Sydney 348

    Nick Sydney 2

    22 Sep, 2018 07:15 am

    Truly a first world problem. Personally I'm not bothered by this. A P1 so whether first or last is irrelevant. We all get on the same plane. Now if airlines could enforce the carry on limits then that would be something
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Clancy

    Clancy

    22 Sep, 2018 02:59 pm

    Nick Sydney 2 - you nailed it....!!! Especially the carry on.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Dan Ho

    djtech

    22 Sep, 2018 11:08 pm

    I personally do not see a point in priority boarding other than storage on overhead lockers. Who wants to be in the plane longer than necessary? But one way Qantas can improve priory boarding would be to just check boarding passes that should have a Oneworld status indicator on it or something. Otherwise, u get sent back. Simple.
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  • blart

    blart

    23 Sep, 2018 10:38 am

    They manage to get the priority queues right when you go through security in MEL. Not only is there a spot for someone to stand, but it even has a mat to stand on!
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  • Jedi

    Jedi

    29 Sep, 2018 03:05 pm

    Yes when I boarded in Sydney last Wednesday morning. QF had a staff member standing at the entrance to the priority lane to security and they were checking every passenger to make sure you had the correct status. Why can't they do the same at the gate
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  • Garth Freeman

    rnickey mouse

    26 Sep, 2018 07:58 am

    Channeling Laurie Lawrence:
    Check your bag;
    Stay in the lounge;
    Board last.
    and you will always get priority boarding.
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  • Finsch

    Finsch

    21 Nov, 2018 10:40 pm

    Finnair staff check priority boarding queue and relegate non priority pax to general boarding queue
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21 Jul, 2019 10:36 am

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