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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Gotta catch a flight in a hurry? Well, the fifth-biggest air carrier has scrapped row-by-row boarding for coach passengers. Bob Moon says Northwest Airlines wants to cut the turnaround time between flights.
BOB MOON: Northwest still assigns seats, it's just no longer boarding the way most airlines do.
[ Gate announcement: "Continue boarding our main cabin, start from the rear of the aircraft. Rows 31 through 34 are welcome aboard at this time." ]
Coach flyers now just line up and get on randomly, maybe not as leisurely, but Bestfares.com travel expert Tom Parsons says airlines are dropping comforts to compete on price.
TOM PARSONS:"We want to fly from Point A-to-B, we want to be frugal, and we're demanding less."
Northwest discovered planes fill up as much as 15 minutes faster this way. That keeps them in the air more.
PARSONS: "If they fly them six times a day, that's an hour-and-a-half. That's almost a whole flight."
Which may help Northwest leave the competition back at the gate.
[ Gate announcement: ". . . continue boarding, rows 29 and higher." ]
I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.