An interesting experiment in getting airliners turned around more quickly has fallen down. Dual-boarding bridges developed for United’s low-fares operation at its Denver hub have disappointed the airline. Made by a Canadian firm called Dewbridge, the double-enders were part of United’s efforts to make its Ted operation a smoother one. With both forward and rear doors used for boarding and unloading, Ted’s planes could be turned a lot more quickly, boosting daily aircraft utilisation to the levels of low-cost leaders such as Southwest.
That’s a key to getting maximum use out of those expensive factories known as airliners, as Southwest has proven year after year. JetBlue knows this, and at many of its airports they use both ends of their planes for boarding – but on JetBlue, the rear door uses a set of mobile stairs and people have to go down and then back up to get to and from the terminal. Many flyers, those with bags or the elderly, just sit and wait to go out the front door and use the jet bridge, we have found in flying on JetBlue.
At mile-high Denver, United couldn’t expose its Ted flyers to the atmospherics of the Rocky Mountain city, so they and Dewbridge came up with the double-door bridges. With two-door loading and unloading, Ted’s times of about 12 minutes to get people off the plane fell to some four minutes, while boarding time dipped from 18 to 12 minutes.
But the jetways, guided by computers with sensors looking out for obstacles, had problems such as boinking the wing of a 757 and smashing it enough that the flight had to be cancelled. United says that it will take the rear-door portion off of its five Dewbridges at Denver and use the rest of the device as standard front-door only jet bridges. Up in Canada, WestJet has used the Dewbridge doubles to happier results.