A unique opportunity came by just two weeks ago. A well-known LCC based at Luton flew in an A319 and actually provided volunteers with flight vouchers for boarding this aircraft. (Not only that, free food was promised as well).
As a campus pick-up was also included, it was too hard to let this chance to board an aircraft and not actually fly to some idealic destination, go by. On a sunny and very cold morning some 150 people had to assemble at a parking lot to get a clipboard with questionnaires and make-believe boarding passes and a large bib with a number on it (that you were supposed to wear).
At Luton we were not allowed to shop at the tax free area and the entire herd was escorted to the gate where as in a proper simulation we just had to wait in the hall prior to the gate. Then we had to wait in the area with these four lanes A, B, C and D with our first boarding pass at hand. When your lane was called to board, a walk across the tarmac to the A319 started.
This first time we were allowed to board via either front or back jetty into the aircraft. The weather was nice and the small wait on the steps good enough to look around to other aircraft coming and going. The following times there was a mixture of assigned seating and assigned jetty to board.
Well as you as a aviation-passionate might not see coming, but after boarding, filling in the questionnaire, deplaning and waiting in the designated line does become a little bit annoying after some time, when your hungry as well. This feeling reminded me of Henry Mintzberg’s book; Why I Hate Flying, Tales for the Tormented Traveler (ISBN 1-58799-063-6). A friend lended this to me, and I can surely recommend it. Especially if you work for an airline!
Now this was when it became really evident that this LCC had little experience with providing free lunch for 150 people. Although the food as we saw it from the end of the line was that good, that it finished within minutes, it was definately not in line with the twenty minute turn around time. It almost felt like it took twenty minutes to refill the empty trays. I guess with legacy airlines you usually get a lousy sandwich (goat cheese or fish) that won’t take twenty minutes to waste your time on.
After some time we could enjoy our lunch as well and actually this was the only point in the day that we could really nag about. It was good fun, especially to find out the logic behind the seating or to try to sit next to friends. The last questionnaire asked us about our seating preference (whether or not allocated). Well as it was anonimous, you are just going to have to wait until this LCC might change their seating strategy to find out my preference…