United testing new jet bridge at DIA

I’ve always marveled at how the airlines load the planes.  The crew announces that they will load from the rear of the plane forward.  Then the first class passengers are boarded, which blocks the way for the next wave, as the first class stands in the aisles getting settled.  Then the elite fliers like me board, who block the next few rows in front behind first class from the next wave, which are supposed to be in the back of the bus. 

NOW United has hit upon a brilliant but "duh" strategy: use both the front and rear doors of the aircraft.  Why didn’t they think of this sooner?  That should have been done years ago!  (Honestly, I didn’t even know it was possible to board from the rear.)

United Airlines (Ted flights only at this time) has started testing the first of five new advanced jet bridges it plans to install at Denver International, my home base (hooray!), a move that United estimates will help the carrier reduce boarding times.  This is the first time the technology is being used by any airline in the U.S.  The load/unload turn will be shortened by an estimated ten minutes—not a lot of time—but enough for United to fly the planes more each day—eventually easing crowded, oversold flights.  Good long-term strategy.

Another bonus: the new bridges automatically connect to planes using sensors that detect the aircraft’s position, which eliminates the need for gate crew to drive the bridge over manually.  Wow!  You mean no more surprising the gate crew when you’re early and sitting there for another ten minutes, effectively eliminating the benefit of being early?  Cool.

Of course, this is happening just at a time when many of us elite fliers are being forced to check a bag due to heightened security around liquids.  Will this saved 10 minutes off-set the 30 minutes of extra time it now takes on each leg of my trip, checking and waiting for baggage?  Nope.  But it will be less frustrating not to get smashed in the back of the head with a duffel back as the back-seat passengers pass.  And eventually maybe an open seat next to me again.  And less time sitting on the plane waiting for departure.  And more route options.

United, you get a productivity thumbs-up!  I’m thrilled to be a Denverite and happy you’re my airline of choice.



  1. I agree it’s amazing that if this has been done for years in Europe, why hasn’t ANY U.S. carrier done the same? But I still applaud them being the first carrier in the U.S. willing to give it a shot.

    As a mother of three little ones, I am very sensitive to allowing the families to get on board first! Not just for their sanity but to expedite the boarding process for everyone. United *usually* remembers to do this. I’ve become proactive and used my clout with the gate agents to remind them to help out the little ones before the elite fliers trample everyone. Anyone flying on any carrier could attempt to assist families with children by pointing them out to gate personnel and suggesting they go first!

  2. I really don’t think UA deserve a thumbs up for the new loading plan. Planes have been loading from front and rear concurrently for years in Europe … to not notice this before proves that UA have failed completely to study their market or observe their competitors: bad move.

    Meanwhile, the main issue with loading time is those people who take longer to settle into isles being loaded late and having to ‘fight’ a crowd: typically families with young children. Some airlines get it right: get these people on board and give them plenty of space to manoeuvre so that they don’t have to shuffle / climb and fight with other people and a young child. Some airlines, however, get it wrong and leave frustrated children standing in the queue with exhausted parents, who are trying desparately to keep control and avoid frustrating other passengers.