Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Traveling Hassles--United Airlines imitates Southwest

I was subjected to more fun with the air transportation network yesterday.

It seems that every time that I fly, there is a new wrinkle just to keep me off guard.

It isn't enough that the TSA is becoming slower and more inefficient as time passes. It seems there are always lengthy lines to get into the terminal during the middle of the day when there used to be none. And they move more slowly. 

I was amazed at the number of bags that were being pulled out for additional screening--it really slowed the process down. I think it is because the packing rules have gotten more complicated and the occasional travelers can't keep up with the never ending series of changes. I was fortunate--I made it through without committing a time wasting transgression.

But then, the change to top all changes, United is imitating Southwest. Really.

I still had an assigned seat--unfortunately in the next to last row of the plane where everyone waiting to go to the restroom congregated. But to board the plane they set up a confusing set of numbered rows corresponding to the boarding group. While that seems simple enough, United found a way to complicate the process. The lines were not straight because the area had obstructions that could not be moved, and there were two gates in close proximity.  

I figured out the game, only to find out that I was in the wrong line for my correct boarding group--being in the line for the adjoining gate. And then, because of the bend in the line, I wound up in the wrong boarding group--a later boarding group for the right gate. Fortunately,  others near me were dealing with the same problem and we collectively solved the problem. The lines were definitely not intuitive and, unlike Southwest, they were confusing and poorly executed. I'm not saying I like Southwest's approach to boarding aircraft--but it seems to work especially if I am in the "A" group!

United's execution of the "line up and wait to board" was a mess. I do not know who came up with this idea--but it needs work. If United is going to imitate Southwest,  they need to do a better job. I am hoping that this was a test of some kind. If so, it is not yet ready for prime time.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Denver, CO

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