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Qantas pledges to make travel smoother with boarding shake-up

Qantas shows off its new cabin

For people flying economy, boarding a flight usually means a rush to be among the first in line to board, regardless of seat number.

But Qantas is taking a cue from international airlines, with customer trials of a shake-up of boarding procedures beginning this week.

In the trial, Qantas passengers on flights out of Brisbane will begin boarding in groups based on where they are seated on the plane.

The trial is likely to be expanded to other airports after that, before a “wider implementation” in October 2023, Qantas said.

Instead of the mass of economy passengers being called to board at once, announcements at departure gates will single out groups, widely reported to start with those seated in the middle of the plane.

They will be followed by those seated in the back, with travellers at the front taking their seats last.

Group numbers will be shown on boarding passes, and passengers will be contacted in advance if their flight is involved in the trial.

Those with special issues, such as hearing impairment, will be able to register to join a pre-boarding group. Qantas gate staff will also be on hand to offer assistance.

Look out for some additional information on your boarding pass. Photo: TND/Qantas

Qantas said the trial aimed to reduce the time passengers spent waiting to board and, once they were on the plane, get them to their seats quicker.

At this stage, passengers flying in Qantas premium classes will continue to have dedicated priority boarding lanes. The airline will also trial new gate infrastructure, signs and announcements to back up its trial.

Group boarding is already common across many European and American airlines, with some creating additional groups based on factors such as accumulated frequent flyer points, or payment of extra fees for priority boarding.

Other Australian airlines, including Virgin and Jetstar, also use similar practices.

The boarding trial comes as Qantas lauds its on-time record.

The airline said Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics data for June shows that Qantas and QantasLink took off on time 71.4 per cent of the time, compared with 67.6 per cent of the time for its major competitor.

It means Qantas has 10 months in a row of being Australia’s most on-time major domestic airline – the first time since records began in November 2003 that it had recorded 10 consecutive monthly wins.

Chief operating officer Colin Hughes said it was “thanks to everyone across the airline who has been working hard to make sure our customers get where they need to go safely and on time”.

“We know cancellations and delays are frustrating, and there will always be things that are out of our control like windy days and runway restrictions. But these results show we’re getting back to our best, and we’re looking to be even better,” he said.

The boarding trial is the latest in a series of changes for passengers of Qantas Group airlines, who in May had to adjust to earlier check-in and bag drop-off times for Jetstar flights.

Jetstar passengers travelling domestic in Australia and New Zealand must now check-in and drop off their bags at least 40 minutes before departure – 10 minutes earlier than previously.

For international flights, check-in and bag drop close 60 minutes prior to scheduled departure times; boarding gates close 20 minutes before departure for both domestic and international services.

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