If you’ve been on an airplane recently, you will have noticed that you were most likely allocated a zone number for boarding. You will also have noticed that, due to airplanes being fuller and airports being busier than ever before, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stow your luggage in the overhead bins. Your zone number determines when you board the plane and has quickly become an important component of your trip.
Unsurprisingly, Zone 1 means that you’re first on the plane. There used to be five zones on Air Canada. Now, with the introduction of Basic Fares, there is a Zone 6 for people who are the very last to board. Sometimes this zone is referred to as “all other zones” which is as unaffectionate as you can get. In the US, the zones go up to over and above 10 on some airlines. In that case, you’re probably lucky you even got on to the flight you paid for!
The important thing to understand is that the higher the zone number, the less likely you are to land a coveted spot for your carry-on luggage. This can almost be as demoralizing as landing the middle seat....but not quite! As business travellers, it’s likely you carried-on rather than checked a bag so you need a good zone number.
Zone 1 and 2, your bag is a certainty to make the overhead bin. Zone 3, you’re probably good. Zone 4, you’re rolling the dice. Zone 5, only on a good day. Zone 6? Well, we still can’t believe there is a Zone 6!
So what can you do?
Most importantly, make sure you are booked on the right fare – different fares offer you more – for example, a Comfort fare includes preferred seating, over 115% mileage to reach the next status (35K and above board with Zone 2), even a free alcoholic drink AND you get to board in Zone 3 even if you have no status!
For a breakdown of how the Zone system works, check out a variety of the airlines below.