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QANTAS: Boarding by group to be tested on domestic flights

QANTAS: Boarding by group to be tested on domestic flights

Qantas has a chequered history with boarding procedures. Now it wants to move toward using Boarding Groups on domestic flights which it is scheduled to start trialing on selected flights out of Brisbane before it rolls it out across major airports with wider implementation in October 2023.


Qantas introduced priority boarding as a domestic privilege for some categories of its frequent flyers back in 2011. From then on, due to lack of policing, it became the focus of many frequent flyers’ disdain. Although priority boarding was supposed to happen, most passengers ignored the announcement and queued up anyway, and Qantas staff processed them whether they fitted into a priority category or not. Qantas boarding remained a shitshow, until 2019 when they promised to enforce it.

In November 2019, that’s pre-pandemic if you remember, Qantas announced that it would enforce the priority by having separate queues for priority boarding. I tested that in the same month, twice. The first time there was little change. They enforced it for a moment, and then it all went back to chaos. On my second test, things were a little better. Those who qualified for Priority boarding were specified, and things seemed to be more efficient. More recently, it has been hard to tell.

a group of people in an airport
Perth Security queuing [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Boarding by Groups

Starting on domestic flights out of Brisbane, customers affected by the trial will be contacted – presumably via SMS or Email advising them of the trial.

Qantas will use 5 Groups, which will be displayed on printed and electronic boarding passes. Gate layouts will also be altered to reflect the new groups. You will also get to tell Qantas what you think of the system via a survey.

Group boarding might be new for Qantas, but it’s not new everywhere. British Airways use it for their European services, as does Iberia, and most North American airlines board by group.

a white ticket with black text
‘Group 1’ boarding on British Airways flight in Europe 2023 [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

How it will work

Currently, there are just two boarding queues: one for priority and one for everybody else. Priority is rarely enforced.

Under the new Boarding Group system, Premium Boarding, or ‘Group 1’ will be called first up – which includes Chairman’s Lounge, Platinum and Gold Frequent Flyers, and Business Class passengers. Of course, these categories can board at any time, but they will be entitled to board first.

Groups 3 and 4 will apply to the two middle sections of the plane – front and back in the middle, and they will be invited to board next.

Groups 2 (very front after Business) and Group 5 (back of the bus) will be asked to board. This system assumes boarding is achievable via the front and back boarding doors of the plane.

ET further speculates that there will be three groups effectively at the departure gate:

  1. Premium FF’s and Business
  2. Front door boarding – so groups 2 and 3, that’s front and middle-front, and
  3. Back door boarding – groups 4 and 5, that’s back and middle back
a group of people in a line
Melbourne Airport gate [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

2PAXfly Takeout

The new process will be supported by changes to the departure gate layout and digital signage, with the intention that the process will be clearer, and minimise the time you need to spend in those shuffling queues that move inexorably towards the boarding bridge.

I’m happy to give this a go, because, it doesn’t feel like the current system is working. If it reduces those long and windy queues that leak out to the public space of the terminal beyond the boarding gate area, I’m a fan. If it reduces the standing about aimlessly, I’m a bigger fan. If it gets me on board first, then I’m a total fan.

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