Qantas announces Aussie first boarding change, biggest 'in over a decade'

The new move is aimed at ensuring flights leave on time and will see people stopped at gates if they're unaware.

Passengers boarding a Qantas plane on the tarmac.
The Qantas change is official at Brisbane Airport from today and coming to other major city airports this month. Source: Getty

Qantas will change the way travellers board aircrafts across the country's biggest capital cities, in what's been branded as an Aussie first and the "most comprehensive" switch-up to the process in over a decade.

Group boarding, where passengers board the plane in small groups in order of what class they're in – determined by frequent flyer status and seat location – will be introduced by the airline at certain airports this month.

Brisbane is the first major city to adopt the new system as of today, with Perth to follow on June 10, Melbourne from June 17 and Sydney from June 25. It already exists among many international airlines but has yet to be broadly adopted in Australia.

Economy class customers lining up to board a Qantas flight.
Customers will now board in small groups instead of at random and all at once. Source: Getty

Qantas says the new protocol is aimed at speeding up the boarding process to ensure flights leave on time, though experts say little solid evidence exists that the system does in fact impact flight departure times.

In a bid to "reduce the time customers spend lining up at the gate" the change will "make it faster for them to be seated on board", Qantas said.

Domestic CEO Markus Svensson labelled the tweak the "most comprehensive change" to "what we're doing to the boarding process" in "over a decade".

"Group boarding is designed to minimise the time our customers spend waiting to board and allows them to get settled more quickly," he told media. "We know how important on time departure is to our customers, so this process is also about doing everything possible to ensure we depart on time."

Those caught trying to skip the queue will be stopped at the gate, with boarding pass scanners only allowing passengers to embark once their group number is called. Qantas had been trialling the scheme since mid-2023. However some studies showed that boarding in blocks from front to back is counterintuitively slower than uncontrolled boarding.

It's expected Qantas will prioritise first and business class passengers and those with a higher Frequent Flyer status over regular economy tickets.

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