A low-cost airline has come up with what could be a game-changing idea to get passengers off aeroplanes quicker and keep the jets in the sky for longer.
One of the frustrations of air travel is the slow process of leaving the aircraft, with passengers having to squeeze through a single left hand door at the front of the plane.
If you’re at the back of the plane that can mean long waits as sometimes hundreds of people disembark in front of you.
To speed this up some airlines, including Virgin Australia and Qantas owned Jetstar, regularly allow passengers to disembark from a set of stairs at the rear of the aeroplane.
But India’s largest carrier IndiGo has gone one step further and has introduced a third door for passengers to exit through.
And uniquely, the third door is on the right hand side of the plane which is rarely – if ever – used as an exit in anything other than an emergency.
The carrier reckons it could almost halve the time it takes to get passengers off the plane from up to 13 minutes to a mere seven.
“The new Three-Point Disembarkation process will be carried out from two forward and one rear exit ramp, making IndiGo the first airline to use this process,” an IndiGo spokesman told India’s Hindustan Times.
A video uploaded by Indian business journalist Sumit Chaturvedi shows the new process with passengers leaving an IndiGo Airbus A320 aircraft via the various ramps.
While the giant Airbus A380 “superjumbo” often boards and disembarks by three doors, this is the first time it’s been done for a smaller narrow-body plane typically used on domestic and short-haul routes, such as the A320.
“An A320 aircraft usually takes around 13 minutes for its passengers to de-board the aircraft. However, the new process will make the drill faster and will reduce the disembarkation time from 13 minutes to seven minutes,” the IndiGo spokesman said.
That could be good for passengers who won’t have to hang around on-board.
But it could be a boon for the airline too. The quicker passengers can leave the plane, the shorter the turnaround time to get it back in the air with more fare-paying passengers on board.
Do time savings add up?
However, some are sceptical of the airline’s claims.
Ben Schlappig of US aviation blog One Mile At A Time questioned if all the claimed time savings would occur in real-life settings.
“The process of actually getting out the door is one bottleneck, but I’d think that getting down the aisle is another thing that takes time, and that’s still an issue, even with a second door in the front.”
Why planes usually board from the left
Traditionally, jets board and deplane from the left, despite doors being on both sides of the fuselage.
This helps to keep passengers separated from ground crew in what can be a hectic and potentially dangerous environment. For instance, staff loading bags into the aircraft from the right don’t have to worry about tripping over travellers who remain on the left.
In addition, the right hand door is often used to bring supplies on board an aircraft, such as water and food, at the same time as passengers enter and exit on the left.
Initially IndiGo’s routes in and out of Delhi as well as the cities of Mumbai and Bengaluru will feature Three-Point Disembarkation. But the airline has said it could roll out the new process across the whole country and its fleet of 181 A320s in just 90 days.