boarding Faster boarding with an astrophysicists touchLeave 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?


pixel Faster boarding with an astrophysicists touch
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4 Responses to “Faster boarding with an astrophysicist’s touch”

  1. From the Mind of J Says:

    It’s all well and good that they’re working on this, but there are a bunch of other things they should be spending their time/money on.

  2. sam Says:

    This all sounds good, but unless they get rid of the whole priority boarding situation – first/business class, families with children, anyone with elite status being allowed to board whenever they want – none of it is going to be efficient.

    Don’t get me wrong. When I’m flying business class, I very much like to get on the plane early, but I’m inevitably in the way of someone who has to trek through business to get to their coach seat.

  3. mps247 Says:

    As somebody who works in the field (particle physics, not public transport management), it is nice to see somebody applying these principles in an attempt to solve a problem that has little to do with smashing particles together.

    I was under the impression that the random boarding policies of budget carriers like easyJet and Ryanair were efficient because passengers would turn up to the departure gate early, hoping to be the first to board so that they could get a good seat. It seems as though the actual random process of passengers selecting their own seats also helps.

    Of course, there is something to be said for having a seat number before getting on the plane. If I had a choice, I would prefer to board slowly, safe in the knowledge that my aisle seat was waiting just for me.

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