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No Bags? Board First, Says Virgin America

Virgin America is testing a simple but bold new boarding procedure: Let passengers without carry-ons board first. The plan is designed to spare these passengers the headache of waiting in the aisle while other passengers maneuver their carry-ons into the overhead. Virgin America is testing the procedure on just a few routes, all out of the airline’s home airport of San Francisco. Passengers traveling only with personal items, such as purses, laptops, and small bags that fit under the seat, would be included in the first group. Passengers without carry-ons board all at once, while passengers with carry-ons board by row.

The goals of the test are simple, says Virgin America spokeswoman Abby Lunardini. “[We want to] see if it: 1) helps speed up the boarding process and 2) makes the process more smooth and seamless for guests.”

At least on paper, the idea seems like a slam dunk. Passengers without bags will seat themselves quickly, and passengers with bags will have an easier (read: quicker) time loading their carry-ons. Plus, how many times have you stood next to someone lifting a carry-on, only to find that carry-on suddenly lilting in your direction? With fewer people crowding the aisle, the experience of boarding will be a little less dangerous.

Of course, this is still in test mode, and there are a few factors that could derail what seems like a very good idea. What if people with carry-ons don’t want to wait around? Isn’t it sort of discriminatory to tell people with carry-ons they have to board last? What if a few try to sneak on? And what if there just aren’t many people without carry-ons?

Well, that’s why they do testing. Personally, I think it’s a good idea. I usually travel with a carry-on, and I’d prefer having fewer people in the aisle when it’s my turn to load my bag. But what about you? What do you think about Virgin America’s boarding test? Is it a good idea? Will it work? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. Thanks!

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