Little Rabbit Foo-Foo Hands It Down From the Overhead Carry-On Bin

Southwest Airlines is experimenting with assigned seating on a few flights this month in hopes of speeding up turn-around time for its planes. Southwest has used a "cattle call" open-boarding system since right after the dinosaurs died out, so this is big news in Big D. The "cattle call" means that each passenger's boarding pass is marked A, B, or C. The A group boards first and sits wherever it likes, then the B group, and then the C group. Thanks to the cosmic humor of a random universe, the A group consists of everyone who prefers to sit in an aisle seat. The B and C groups better get used to climbing over. This isn't all that awful, except that CollageMama wants some cool air blasting on her very quickly after all that open-boarding exertion!

Kyle Lee's July tenth story in the Dallas Morning News goes on to explain:

Carriers are testing a host of ways to get customers on board – letting passengers with window seats on first and then moving toward the aisles, or having travelers make their way to assigned seats in no particular order. For passengers, the changes can mean shaving a few minutes off the boarding process and avoiding the annoying inconvenience of clogged aisles. And for airlines, those few minutes can translate into millions of dollars in increased productivity by improving on-time performance and reducing the time that a plane sits on the ground. "The quicker you can do a turn, the more turns you can do during the course of a day," said John Romantic, who oversees airport policies and procedures for US Airways. "Every single minute counts."

Yes, indeedy, every single minute counts. Every single minute spent crouching under the overhead bin after your plane lands before you can escape from your window or middle seat increases your chance to 100% of being clonked on the head with an overstuffed wheely suitcase being pulled down from the overhead bin by Someone Entirely Too Important To Check His/Her Bags. This is the point in modern air travel that makes me consider the barf bag. Perhaps I was clonked once or twice to often, but I had a revelation.

I've been called to offer a divine boarding system handed down by a higher power. This isn't really a "God Is My Co-Pilot" bumber sticker moment, or even a "God Is My Underpaid Flight Attendant" lapel pin moment, but I have received the stone tablets, and the Extra-Strength Tylenol.

The higher power in this case is Little Rabbit Foo-Foo, who has been stuck in the overhead carry-on luggage bin. The Little Rabbit Foo-Foo* boarding system retains the three cattle chutes at Southwest gates:

Group A boards first to seats at the front of the plane. Group A is all passengers who have checked their baggage.

Group B boards next to seats behind those taken by Group A. Group B consists of all passengers intending to stow luggage in the overhead bins.

Group C boards last to seats behind those taken by Group B. Group C consists of all passengers who intended to stow luggage in the overhead bins but ignored the FAA size requirements for carry-on luggage. If flight attendants have to check luggage at the last moment, those passengers must sit at the back of the plane, put down their tray-tables, and write fifty times with dull #2 pencils on lined newsprint paper, "I'm a bad, bad baggage bunny, and I'll check my luggage from now on." Then they must put their heads down on the aforesaid tray-tables and take a little nap instead of having graham crackers and warm grape juice for snacktime.

When the plane arrives at the gate, Group A deplanes as soon as the pilot turns off the seat-belt sign. Members of Group B then clonk each other on the head with their wheely suitcases, and exit in survival-of-the-thickest-skull order. Group C members stay after school to erase the blackboards and clean the plane for the next flight.

You remember Little Rabbit Foo-Foo from Scouts and Camp Fire Girls. That bad bunny finally cleaned up his act, finished his MBA, wrote his thesis on comparative** airline boarding models, and became a gazillionaire:

*Little Rabbit Foo Foo

Little rabbit Foo Foo, hopping through the forest,
Scooping up the field mice, and bopping them on the head,
And down came the good fairy, and she said,
"Little rabbit Foo Foo, I don't want to see you
Scooping up the field mice, and bopping them on the head."
"I'll give you three chances, And then I'll turn you into a goon." But the very next day... (repeat the verse)

"I'll give you two more chances, And then I'll turn you into a goon." But the very next day... (repeat the verse)

"I'll give you one more chance, And then I'll turn you into a goon." But the very next day... (repeat the verse)

"I gave you three chances, So now I'll turn you into a goon." - Zap! The moral of the story is: "Hare today; goon tomorrow."


Little rabbit Foo Foo...: use two fingers as rabbit ears, hop your hand across in front of you
Scooping up the field mice: scoop up an invisible mouse, bop it on the head
Good fairy: wave arm as if holding a magic wand
I don't want to see you: wag index finger back and forth as "no"

**As they study ways to be more efficient, some airlines are rethinking how they load passengers on airplanes, while others stick to traditional back-to-front boarding. An overview:

Alaska Airlines: Abandoned its random boarding system in May to return to the rear-to-front method. Main cabin passengers board in two groups.

American: Continues to use traditional zone boarding. Premium-class passengers and most elite fliers board first, then the plane is loaded back to front.

Continental: Loads traditionally from back to front but has a priority lane for elite fliers.

Delta: Shifted to reverse-pyramid model in February. Passengers load from back to front, but those holding window and middle seats get on before those sitting on the aisle.

Northwest: Switched to open boarding in June. Passengers have seat assignments but board in the order they line up. Those in first class and business class and other elite fliers get a priority line.

Southwest: Begins testing assigned seats today on selected flights from San Diego. For years, one of the discounter's hallmarks has been open seating.

United: Starting last October, passengers load from the outside in, starting with those next to windows and ending with passengers seated along the aisle.

US Airways: Reverse pyramid was implemented by America West in 2003. The carrier merged with US Airways last year, and now the process is being rolled out for all routes.

1 comment:

Genevieve said...

Or then again, they could use the early-1980's Bolivian method which was to oversell the tickets, park the plane 1/4 mile from the ticketing building, and then let the ticket-holders race for the plane carrying everything they could clutch in two hands and tie on their backs*. The slow ones just didn't get to leave on that plane. It really added some zest to departures -- the anticipation of the run and all, you know.

*The Bolivian meaning of "carry-on".


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