At Southwest Airlines, two doors are better than one to empty planes faster

A Southwest Airlines jet taxis toward the terminal after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport in April 2011.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

For years, the airline industry has experimented with different ways to load passengers onto planes in an effort to save time and money.

Carriers have tried seating passengers starting at the front of the cabin, and at the back. They’ve tried allowing passengers in window seats to board first, then middle, then aisle.

Now Southwest Airlines is testing a way to save time at the end of a flight, by unloading passengers simultaneously from the front and back of a plane.


The Dallas-based carrier began June 1 to test using two doors to unload passengers at Sacramento International Airport and San Jose International Airport. Some of the passengers have been exiting into jetways while the travelers exiting from the back of the plane take a staircase to the tarmac.

“The test period will help the carrier determine when to use dual door deplaning and to identify whether or not this process can be expanded to more airports across the network,” Southwest spokeswoman Casey Dunn said.

Dual-door operations have been used periodically by Southwest in the past in other airports, including Sacramento, San Jose, Burbank and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., “and have proven successful in improving both on time performance as well as the customer experience,” Dunn said.

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