Back of the queue for patience

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Us Brits were once famed for our polite patience - we were taught to queue for everything and liked to complain that citizens of other nations were not so fond of waiting their turn - but that isn’t often the case these days, especially when it comes to travel.

If you have ever tried getting on or off a train at rush hour, then you will be acutely aware of how discourteous the average commuter has become. But is there a better example of how impatient we have all become than how unruly passengers become when waiting to board a plane?

Unless you are flying to Newcastle for a week-long conference about the future of spreadsheets and pie charts, sitting in the departures lounge of an airport should be a great source of excitement for most people.

But, rather than being an oasis of joyous calm, airport waiting areas, can often feel like a bear-pit; an inhospitable place full of suspicion and seething resentment.

Even though the passengers, weighed down by foot-long Toblerones and bottles of perfume they will use only once, know which seats they are sitting in, boarding a plane resembles the start of a January sale when travellers go out of their way to make it to the front of the queue.

This unseemly spectacle could soon be a thing of the past after it was revealed London Gatwick is trialling a new boarding system with one airline. The tests have focused on boarding people with window seats first, starting at the back, then the middle then aisle seats, although those wishing to sit together will be seated a row at a time, starting at the back.

It has been reported that the trial has been a success so far, shaving up to three minutes off the process of boarding an entire plane - a saving which matters when you are a budget airline and your business model is based on quick turnarounds. The same airport is also trying out the use of screens to tell passengers when it is their turn to board.

While this sounds like a welcome development, it is a sad state of affairs that an airport has had to intervene, when all it really takes is a bit of patience and good manners.