Frequent flyers in particular are likely to be all too familiar with this phenomenon: the ground staff calls for “boarding”, the boarding passes are scanned and after a few steps or a short bus ride you are off to your seat on the plane. At least in theory, because in practice it is often said: “Please wait” in stairwells, gangways, apron buses or specially created, usually barren rooms. And sometimes for quite a long time.
Low-cost airlines like Ryanair came up with “temporary storage” for passengers many years ago. The supposed “boarding” begins long before the plane is even ready for boarding. The passengers then have to wait in gangways, stairwells, apron buses and/or “waiting rooms” until someone gives the green light for things to continue.
For many travelers, this “intermediate storage” is quite unpleasant because the “storage locations” are often not air-conditioned in summer and not heated in winter. Some ground handling providers have stopped running the engines of their apron buses for a long time. Officially for “climate protection reasons”, unofficially because it saves diesel and therefore money. In the case of electric vehicles, which some airports boast about, the batteries would run out much more quickly if the air conditioning systems were in continuous operation and the charging process would take a lot of time. This is particularly annoying at peak times, because sometimes that one bus that is needed is missing.
In relevant internet forums, “fighter posters” who believe they always have to position themselves against low-cost carriers would possibly write that it is your own fault, if you had booked another airline, for example Austrian Airlines, then this would not have happened to you. There would be no such “interim storage” there.
The opposite is the case, because Austrian Airlines also copied the practice of low-cost airlines some time ago. Be it for luggage, desired seats, snacks/drinks, or even “temporary storage” of passengers. Sometimes you start “boarding” at a time when the crew isn’t even present, which means that even an airport employee accompanying a wheelchair user can find himself standing in surprise in front of a slumbering aircraft with a locked door. The gangway behind it is gradually filling up with passengers, but in order: first Hon Circle members and business class passengers as well as travelers with other high status cards and the imprint “Pre” on the boarding pass. Afterwards, after their boarding groups, the passengers are “in the traffic jam” in the passenger bridge or in the stairwell and wait. Sometimes even longer.
While with low-costers you have to pay comparatively little for the “extra service” that means you have to wait as long as possible in gangways, stairwells and apron buses, with Austrian Airlines it affects loyal frequent flyers with high status cards and well-paying business class passengers. The fact that the product offered in economy class, apart from a free cup of water, which you can also get for free from some low-cost airlines upon request, hardly distinguishes it from low-cost airlines, as AUA also has a very narrow one in its A320 fleet Seat distance.
Of course, everything is different in advertising, because you present yourself as super premium and you should feel good. The only question is: How can longer waiting times in hot or cold weather in gangways, staircases, etc. be reconciled with these self-created expectations when one follows the same “boarding practice” as low-cost airlines, which management repeatedly “demonizes” in media releases “, served?
A spokeswoman for Austrian Airlines made the statement quoted below on the entire issue: “The boarding processes play a crucial role in smooth operations at Vienna Airport. In order to increase efficiency and minimize waiting times for passengers, Austrian Airlines in Vienna works with an automatic boarding start as standard. During pier boarding, waiting times for our passengers can only occur as part of a so-called quick turnaround, so that a punctual departure can be guaranteed. Bus boarding can also involve waiting times, which often depend on the arrival of the bus or the coordination between the departure of the first bus and the arrival of the second bus. The topic of “intermediate storage” was also raised. We would like to emphasize that this practice is not the standard process, but is only used for quick turnarounds, where the aircraft must be made ready for departure quickly after landing.
It should be noted that Austrian Airlines' "temporary storage" of flight OS201 (Vienna-Frankfurt) from September 5, 2023 was cited as an example. Boarding started at a time when the crew was not present. A PRM supervisor from Vias went ahead with a wheelchair user. Instead of waiting for the airport employee to return, “pre-boarding” and then regular boarding began immediately afterwards. So it happened that a traffic jam formed in the gangway because it wasn't until about 15 minutes later that the crew actually came to the aircraft and began preparing for the flight. Everyone had to keep waiting, because it wasn't until another 15 minutes that things really started. The passengers, especially the mobility-impaired lady, Hon Circle member and business class traveler, were “temporarily stored” for about half an hour.
If you remember Austrian Airlines' statement that this practice should only occur with "quick turnarounds", it doesn't fit that the aircraft, the OE-LBN, had been parked at the gate since around 20:30 p.m. the previous day. So there is definitely no question of “Quick”. It is also questionable why the crew only shows up at the A320 immediately before block time.
There definitely cannot be any talk of “isolated cases”, as the practice of “intermediate storage” has been occurring on many Austrian Airlines flights for several years. What is particularly noticeable is that this occurred particularly frequently in the past when using the de Havilland Dash 8-400 machine type. At the moment, bus boarding always means waiting in the stairwell until an apron bus has pulled up and sometimes again directly in front of the plane. Even if the aircraft docks at the gangway, “intermediate storage” like that of low-cost airlines can occur, even if it is not something people like to talk about.