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Saturday Night Live’s Airline Boarding Process Spoof – Spot On

by on October 1, 2013 · 21 comments

in Airline Industry

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I don’t catch Saturday Night Live that often since I’m on the road a lot, though I was excited to see Tina Fey hosting it this week. However, I did want to catch a particular clip this week that got the points and miles world abuzz because Tina and cast member Taran Killam played airline gate agents boarding a flight from Chicago to Dallas and spoofing an airline boarding process that has gotten ridiculously out of hand with everyone and their mother trying to find an angle to board the plane early so they can fit one of their half-dozen carry-ons in the overhead bins it seems like.

How often does trying to board a plane feel like this?

How often does trying to board a plane feel like this?

I found it to be especially timely because I’d had such an interesting experience that very morning boarding an American Airlines flight from LaGuardia to Miami and for once the gate agent was strict about the rules and actually turned people away at the gate before their boarding group. I was so impressed that I live tweeted the whole thing:

Digging the @AmericanAir LGA gate agent enforcing boarding rules today. First class only boarding does not = “anyone who feels like it”

Screen shot 2013-10-01 at 8.29.31 AM

Though there was still a guy who managed to get past her with four – yes four – carry on bags that he then proceeded to create a bottleneck with.

Dear man who brought 4 carry ons and can’t even fit one in the bin – you are annoying #crankysaturday #moveoutoftheaisle

Screen shot 2013-10-01 at 8.30.49 AM

Still, the process was smooth overall and I tweeted my appreciation to @AmericanAir and got the following response:

We’re glad our gate agent was keeping things in order for you this morning!

Screen shot 2013-10-01 at 8.32.59 AM

That’s why I thought it was hilarious when I saw the clip from SNL, which you can watch here:

The reason it’s so funny is that we’ve all experienced this! Part of what I love about elite status is the ability to pre-board, but lately that seems to be less and less of a benefit as everyone is separated into micro-groups for everything from traditional pre-boarders like the handicapped and families with small children as well as uniformed military, to people with airline elite status, co-branded credit cards, and then helter skelter boarding groups predicated on I’m not sure what – row numbers, window seats, exit rows? Whatever the true breakdown, here’s how SNL subdivided it:

-Elderly passengers and those needing special assistance
-Parents traveling with small children and children traveling with small parents
-Oneworld alliance members and Diamond Advantage (what’s that!?) partners
-Frequent Fly Girls
-Air Buds
-First Class
-X-Men First Class and X-Men Business Class
-Foreign passengers who have not yet been called to ignore us and try to board anyway – all Brazilian and Italian passengers to begin pushing and shoving and selectively understanding English
-Travelers with carry ons that have no chance of fitting in the overhead compartment (the guy on my plane looked like this!)

carry on
-Business travelers with laptops who want to begin working on graphs
-Farters
-People who clap when the plane has landed – denied boarding!

All in all, I thought it was hilarious because it really captures the chaos of boarding these days – especially if you don’t have elite status or any other sort of priority that helps you get on the plane in the first few groups. All the more reason that elite status matters, as does having a co-branded credit card that offers you priority boarding as a benefit!

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  • HCSmooth66

    Nice, though I think the actual boarding process is ridiculous enough for satire without embellishing things like boarding farters and clappers. A lot more humor to be found in reality than they used.

  • AceTracer

    Sorry, but why the hell does it matter what order you board in? I don’t even understand the benefit of boarding early. We all have assigned seats, it’s not gonna make a difference. I actually prefer to stay seated, usually charging my phone or laptop, as late as possible before boarding after everyone else has. It means I don’t have to stand and wait.

  • HCSmooth66

    Only reason it could ever matter to me is if it actually did mean the difference between having space in the overhead or having to gate check a bag. I normally don’t use a rollerboard, just a backpack, and can be fine with it under my seat. I am the type who wants to always be the last one on the plane if I can. Why spend more time stuck with a bunch of other people in a limited space with recycled air?

  • AceTracer

    Agreed. I usually only have one bag that fits under my seat.

    I can only assume some people can’t wait to get their First Class cocktails.

  • James

    It’s all about finding space near your seat in the overhead bin. If you board last, and you have a seat in row 11, your carryon may end up in Row 45 which makes you last getting off the plane, which usually means there are 400 other people in front of you at Customs.

  • Ruben

    That’s easy if you are either checking in your bag or just carry something small enough to fit in front of your seat but if you travel international it’s much better to get to your spot ahead of time like James mentioned, to get space for your luggage.

    For domestic flights it’s not a big deal but try sitting close to the front on a 777 or 747 and having to put your luggage at the waaay back.

  • Amol

    Even in coach, I usually get Economy Comfort/Economy Plus/Main Cabin Extra seats, which are in the front part of the economy cabin. If I wait to board, the only overhead bin space is all the way in the back, which means upon landing, I have to wait for the entire plane to get off the plane so that I can “swim upstream” to get my bag. Being able to board early means I don’t have to do that and can get off the plane ASAP.

  • joeypore

    bahaha. That is incredible.

  • dc

    Why don’t they just assign overhead space to a seat and be done with it?

  • Matt C.

    Love that monstrous carryon. Lol.

  • Jasmine

    Yup, the carry-on was the best. The farter’s expression was pretty good too. Thanks for sharing!

  • joeypore

    Because they don’t have room for every person on board to bring a roller board. Not everyone brings these either.

  • scott

    Depends on the airline. Southwest doesn’t have assigned seats and so you may not be able to sit with your group. I’ve been assigned to Group 3 on Delta and then been told there was no more room in the overhead bins and we’d have to check our bags in. I had thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment without locks(I NEVER check this in). On a recent fight with United I paid $25 for priority boarding because I estimated a Sunday morning flight would be packed and they’d run out of overhead space–and I was right!

  • JustSaying

    Actually reminds me of boarding a AA flight from San Jose…………Gold boarded two thirds through the passenger list……….

  • AliBoardingAgent

    The reason it matters, and it does make a difference, is because we have limited “turn times” which means we have a certain amount of time to get the aircraft groomed when it just arrived, ready for boarding, boarded and out so that it (hopefully) doesn’t go out late and if it does, not TOO late… because you have to remember once it gets to its destination it has a turn time there too and if it gets in late, then it’ll probably leave late and affect all the flights it turns into after that.
    SO, we try and facilitate the boarding process by boarding in somewhat of an order. US airlines will usually board by groups (which I believe is windows first, middle seats and then aisles for some) and Canadian airlines like the Airline I work with, we first board our Business class and premium customers for obvious reasons.. then parents with children because some of them take forever to put their strollers and 30053 baby bags away.. and then we board the aircraft from the back to the front.. that way we’re not boarding someone in row 12 who blocks the whole damn aisle for someone who’s sitting in the back in row 33 for example.. if we started boarding anyone who felt like boarding it would take FOREVER to board…(we’ve tried it.. proved to take 15/20 minutes longer than it should for some planes.. that’s a huge delay)
    And it’s so frustrating to tell passengers you’re not going to board out of row numbers and have them STILL try and board a row above what you just called.. no, if I called 20, I don’t want 19.. if I’d have wanted 19 I would have called it.. just be patient.. it seems like people are scared we’re going to leave without them sometimes.. CALM DOWN.. and if you’re scared that your carry on’s aren’t going to fit.. then travel lighter!
    I’m about to start boarding the same way this skit does…!!
    Unfortunately.. not everyone is calm and collected and not in a hurry like you are.. it’s always a mob of crazed people acting like if they don’t get in the plane within the next 5 seconds it’s going to be the end of the world!
    So please, as a boarding agent.. I beg everyone… to board only when they have been called! :)

  • FConly

    Ideally they’d start charging for reserved overhead space (especially in first class). That way people with carry ons could board at their leisure. First class should board last – that way we can relax in the lounge instead of sitting on a plane getting stared at with menacing looks…

  • italdesign

    I think you just gave airlines the next idea – charge $20 to reserve an overhead spot ;-)

  • cyndi

    This is very much like a flight I took with AA. They have instituted a if you have one item and no rollerboard with you you board ahead of zone 1. Well guess what.. all those back packs are in the overhead space instead of under the seat. I don’t think it saves any time, as now the passengers have to duke it out for the overhead space and ask someone with the backpack to move it below. It all comes back to the airlines and their baggage fees.

  • Michelle

    Love me my first class cocktail. Someone’s bitter.

  • AceTracer

    Uh, I don’t even drink. Though I do think whining about too many people boarding before you is the firstest of first world problems; something that comes through often on this blog.

  • AceTracer

    Spirit already charges $45, and I think that’s how it should be.

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