Lonely Planet Writer

Creative new ways to board an airplane

Open SeatingAirlines never stand still. Following recent months when airlines introduced fees for printing boarding passes and higher prices for sitting in window or aisle seats, airlines are getting creative with the way they board passengers. Thankfully, some recent experiments aren’t direct attempts to extract more money from passengers: while some airlines are simply trying to be more fair and efficient, KLM is toying with the idea of allowing passengers to use social media to select seatmates, and Air Baltic is experimenting with seating passengers based on mood.

Why stop there? There are many other innovative ways airlines could consider boarding passengers:

Carry-on size – The larger the bag, the later you get on. Inconsiderate morons that try to stuff bags the size of small sofas into tiny overhead bins will be forced to gate check their bags without holding up everyone behind them.

Altruistic seating – Reward behavior that keeps the plane full of passengers happy. Willingly give up a seat to accommodate a man with a broken leg? Ding! Free beer and in-flight movies for you. Move to a terrible seat near the lavatory that doesn’t recline to give a couple with an infant an extra seat? Ding! 10,000 bonus miles for you.

Hot or Not Passengers can play an anonymous version of ‘Hot or Not‘ before the flight to sort passengers based on level of perceived attractiveness. No more getting leered at by the trollish man next to you, this way you always get seated with people in your league.

Seat Auction Random seat assignment for all passengers followed by fun competitive boarding area auctions. Want to sit with your family or toward the front? How much is it worth to you?

Klout score Do you spend way too much time online cultivating an inflated perception of importance? You might not be entirely wasting your time. Having a high Klout score can already get you into Cathay Pacific airport lounges, so why not preferential seating? If you think that’s unfair, just ask yourself this: do you really want to sit next to someone that might share a video of you snoring and drooling on yourself with their 1.2 million Twitter followers?

Pee frequency No more window seat passengers with walnut-sized bladders. Pre-boarding, passengers must give an honest assessment of average pee frequency and pre-flight beverage consumption.

Tokyo subway-style Get on the plane quickly or get shoved on by an oshiya – it’s your call.

Sponsored seating – Imagine a world where airlines find ways to make money through partnerships rather than at the expense and inconvenience of passengers. One place to start – sponsored seating programs: Zynga sponsors first class seating for frequent Words with Friends players in the wake of the Alec Baldwin incident. Frequent SkyMall customers get preferential seating and free Ponchillo. The possibilities are endless.

The most revolutionary idea of all: Stop the games, and just do whatever gets people on the plane in the most efficient way possible. Too much to ask?

What’s the best way to board a plane? Have you encountered a system that works well?

[Photo by Robert S. Donovan]