Matter, Energy, and Life of Michaela A. Castello.

Boarding Pains

Everybody who’s flown before is likely familiar with the boarding sequence. First class, elderly and parents with children, military personnel, and everybody else beginning with the back of the plane. For the most part, it makes sense. But thanks to airlines charging fees to check baggage, most if not all of the passengers are bringing the maximum number and size of carry-on luggage. As a result, the overhead compartments quickly fill up. If you don’t want to have to hunt for space to put your bags, the seats in the back of the plane are desirable: you get to board earlier, while there is still space in the compartments near your seat. If there’s not enough space, you simply put your stuff in one of the forward compartments, leaving the space problem for the next passengers to deal with.

First class passengers, however, don’t have to worry about storing their things, since they already have reserved space. So why would they want to board first? They get on the plane, and have to sit while the entire rest of the plane shuffles by, bumping into the seats and swinging gigantic bags around. Meanwhile, flight attendants attempting to serve them drinks have to do so around the line of other passengers.In addition to the awkwardness, the first class passengers have to spend more time sitting aboard the plane, and while the seats are more comfortable than in coach, is somebody really in that much of a hurry to get to them?

The boarding first seems like a holdover from a time when flying on a plane was more of a luxury event, rather than a utilitarian way of traveling from point A to point B. In today’s world, I think it would make the most sense for the first class passengers to board last, swooping aboard after all the lower-class passengers have finished bumbling around and the plane is actually ready to get underway. Then, they get to exit the plane first, minimizing the time they have to spend waiting around for other people to figure out what they’re doing.

Rapid switch to a new plane-related anecdote: You know how the flight attendants ask you to turn off all your electronic devices? There are usually two categories: The ones that just read the script and tell you to turn off all your devices, and the ones that try to list out some examples but are clearly in unfamiliar territory, and start saying anything they’ve mentally categorized as “tech.” Something like, “Please turn off all your iPods, ear buds, tablet pads, cell phones, Blackberries, blueberries, Xboxes, turn it all off.”

We recently had one announcement from the latter category, but we also had one where she said, quickly and confidently, something to the effect of “Please turn off all electronic devices, so if you’re playing Angry Birds, Tetris, or electronic Sudoku right now, you’ll need to stop until we get in the air.” Naturally, I happened to be playing Angry Birds at that exact moment. What do you think the chances are she has an iPhone?

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