Southwest began flying in 1971. They had 4 Boeing 737s, but they’d largely been drained of cash by legal battles getting off the ground (they weren’t a party to the airline agreement not to fly from Dallas Love Field but other carriers wanted to prevent them from doing so). They were losing money initially and nearly out of cash, so they unloaded one of the aircraft.
At the time Southwest offered 14 flights each way between Dallas and Houston; 7 between Dallas and San Antonio; and had just launched Houston – San Antonio as well.
To keep the airline going they committed to turn aircraft in 10 minutes, instead of the normal 50-60. That meant deplaning out the back of the aircraft onto the tarmac while passengers for the next flight boarded from the front.
The entire team was “on it” from removing trash to catering peanuts. Flight attendants were cleaning the cabin (and they still do) and so were pilots. Until 1986 pilots could taxi out while passengers were still getting seated.
- The 10 minute turn is gone but quick turns matter because a delay of just a few minutes per flight means less efficiently scheduling and the need for more costly aircraft.
- Airlines are trying to optimize schedules for connecting flights, they don’t just push each flight later in the day. Customers want certain times, their competitors fly certain times, there’s a scheduling inefficiency that derives from small delays.
Ryanair has stairs built into its 737s, they can deplane faster and at some airports they can save on fees too.
— Woodys Aeroimages (@AeroimagesChris) December 22, 2018
India’s IndiGo though is trying something that I’ve never seen done before: using a third aircraft exit to speed up deplaning. The galley door often used for catering will be used to disembark the aircraft.
In some countries, the right-hand side of the aircraft is reserved for non-passenger activities like catering, and cargo handling but IndiGo says it will be able to use a third exit ramp at around 70 per cent of its operations where remote aircraft stands are used.
IndiGo estimates the current turnaround time is between 30 to 35 minutes and the airline hopes to shave three to five minutes off by adding the third ramp.
— Aditi Shah (@aditishahsays) August 4, 2022
The deplaning process of an aircraft turn, IndiGo says, could be cut almost in half through use of this third door. That seems a stretch. But every minute matters to profitability – squeezing out an extra flight, getting flights out on time, or even just ensuring all flights are scheduled at a time the passenger wants to buy.