Why do international flights board so much faster?

On the flight down to Florida this past weekend I got to talking with a flight attendant sitting next to me deadheading home after a 6 day trip.  Another deadheading FA on the same flight was having terrible trouble figuring out how to get her bags stowed in the overheads across the aisle from us.  Eventually I got involved (though without leaving my seat), suggesting a sequence of actions that allowed them to successfully get all the bags stowed in the overhead bin and let us get out of town.  This scene started another conversation between me and the flight attendant: Why do international flights board so much more quickly than domestic ones.

Despite my otherwise unimpressive flights with Korean Air a couple weeks ago, I have to admit that I am impressed that they can board a packed 747-400 – including a stupid security screening between the gate and the jetway – in less time than Continental can board a full 737-700.  Why?  Sure, the 747 has two aisles and potentially multiple boarding doors, but that isn’t the full story.  Even the international 757s that Continental flies seem to board more quickly – with more passengers – than the 757s do.

SBM_0006 Is it because passengers check bags more on international flights?  Or because folks flying internationally travel more than those who fly domestically in the USA?  Or something else?  I don’t really know, but I do know that it makes me want to travel internationally more – not that I really needed much motivation on that front.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I think it's a combination of

    – less carry on (especially large bags that cause trouble)

    – more experienced travelers

    – more FAs helping

    – fewer kids (?)

    – fewer old people (?)

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