Leave it to folks at the Fermilab, whose research typically involves high-speed particle acceleration, to rethink the ways in which commercial airlines board their jets. High speed particles… high speed boarding! Sure, why not.
Jason Steffen went on NPR last week to discuss his latest research, which had nothing to do with protons or electrons, except as they’re contained within the body of a rollaboard-toting passenger. Steffen argues that “lining up passengers whose seat assignments are two rows apart and boarding them from the back of the plane to the front — then repeating for the other rows — is the most efficient way of getting passengers onto a plane.”
The key is creating space in the aisle to allow passengers to stow away luggage in overheard bins.
Steffen’s study also yielded another potentially surprising finding: that boarding passengers randomly is significantly faster than the traditional method of simply boarding them from back to front.
So, if speed is the goal, airlines should either try alternate-row boarding, or just give up and kick it Ryanair style.
Those seeking to geek out on the full article can find it here.
Faster boarding makes airlines happy. After all, faster turnaround means planes spend less time on the ground, thereby ensuring better capital utilization. And as long as it doesn’t feel like you’re being herded in like cattle, faster boarding makes customers happy, too.
The alternating-rows concept makes a lot of sense. Then again, so did front-and-rear boarding, windows-first boarding, back-to-front boarding, open seating, and the “reverse pyramid.” So which airline will be the first to try alternating rows?