Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Southwest Airlines: A Pioneer in Queue Management

Early in the life of this blog, I posted an elaborate rant about how much I hate standing in lines while traveling titled Queue Madness or Why I Hate Standing in Lines. In this post, I outlined just how much time travelers spend in line, and I pleaded to the world to pay attention to the neglected art form of queue management.

Since I don't have the authority to enact sweeping changes in queue management, and I'm not quite up to rogue queue management yet, I decided that venting was where I would have to leave the topic.

Since then, I've seen many examples of poor queue management that would not be very interesting reading. However, I did run across something worth sharing on my recent trip home from Nashville, TN: an actual attempt at queue management.

At the Southwest Airlines gates at the Nashville International Airport (BNA) I noticed some tall posts that appeared to be gateways for groups of rows.

At first I wasn't completely sure that what I was looking at was queue management, but further inspection of the posts and the video screen that explained them removed all doubt in my mind; Southwest Airlines takes queue management at boarding time seriously.

Instead of a cyptic system groups or a chaotic everyone-boards-right-now tactic, Southwest Airlines has streamlined the process as follows:

1. Get in the line between the posts for your row number.
2. When it's your line's turn, you board.

Unfortunately. I was unable to witness an actual boarding because I was not flying Southwest that day, but the dedication to queue management was evident and greatly appreciated by at least this frequent traveler.

I'd like to thank Southwest Airlines for taking on a problem that has plagued the world for far too long. I hope that others see this example and build upon what Southwest has achieved in the field of queue management.

I have a few questions for my readers who have traveled with Southwest Airlines. Does the queue management system that I saw function well in practice? Do the gate agents enforce the queues that were so thoughtfully designed? Is this system used in airports other than in Nashville?

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  1. I just wanted to tell you I really enjoy reading your blog and Nicole's pictures with the posts are lovely. I stumbled across some other really cool travel blogs and I thought I'd share them with you.

    MyKugelhopf - This one is one of my favorite. I like all the illustrations and the photography.

    Happy Travels!


  2. I realize this comment comes years after the initial posting, but the mistaken understanding should be addressed. Those numbers for the lines at SWA gates are not for the rows, but for the check-in ranking each passenger is assigned when doing online check-in. 24 hours before the flight, hit the SWA website, locate your already done reservation, and do the check-in procedure. It's easy, but should do it as soon as you can, as early as you can. No assigned seats, and higher ranking gets onboard sooner and can choose the best seats. Group A is better than group B, a lower number is better than a higher number. Get to the airport, sit around until they start to announce pre-boarding, and then still sit around until much closer to time to go to the jetway and board the plane. Pay attention to the announcements while sitting, then just hop and get into your spot/space in the lines and off you go.

  3. I have always had the same thoughts and opinions as you. Queue management has NEVER been taken seriously at an airport that I have ever visited. However, it appears SouthWest Airlines is the real deal. That is great that they are trying to improve there service. I feel like all airline care less and less about quality service, but then again South West has other thoughts in it's mind.