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Mathematicians develop a new 'third way' to improve airplane boarding

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Lead researcher Dr Tie-Qiao Tang said while modelling had previously been done on factors such as luggage congestion, routing, and takeoff runway scheduling, his study was the first to look at boarding. ( Mais...

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Mike Davis 6
One can assume that airlines have indeed spent time and experimentation on boarding procedures. To date, the fastest boarding I've found is with Southwest Airlines queue system with random seating. I have no idea why. Perhaps because window seats are preferred. This is somewhat less of an issue since checked bags are free on Southwest and there is more overhead space available as a result.

Common sense would suggest that passengers should board window-middle-aisle, back to front. Yet some allow persons with assigned seats to board aisle seats first, who then must stand and block the aisles to allow window and middle seats to enter. Baggage fees compound the problem since more people are cramming suitcases into overhead compartments which becomes a slow shove-and-stuff exercise in time waste.
WhiteKnight77 -1
I do agree, baggage fees have not helped with boarding. Maybe airlines should adopt the Spirit Airlines system of charging for overhead bin space or at least if people have more than one or too large a carry-on?
Jim Nasby 5
When will they look at getting people *off* planes faster?
WhiteKnight77 3
Boarding would not be so bad if airlines actually held people to their boarding zone and ensured that oversized carry-ons were not carried on. The best boarding experience I have ever had was on an Air Canada flight where they actually ensured boarding was done according to the zone printed on the boarding pass. I watched as people were told to wait their turn.

The biggest hold up in boarding more often than not is the fact that everyone is trying to get those carry-on bags stowed overhead and once a bin is full, have to go further back to find a place to put said bag and has to dodge others who are boarding just to get back to their seat. If you cannot carry your carry-on and have to drag it behind you, it needs to get put below in the cargo hold. This may bring negative comments, but it shows that you are part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
sparkie624 3
LOL, this should be a good one... What works on paper, does not necessarily work in reality....
Roland Dent 3
Now some people regard me as a nerd and I regard others as more "nerd" than I am. I am a "cool nerd". YES..ahem!. Anyway the point is that the some of the methods these statistical promoters use can be blown apart by the Jed Clampet's of this world in one sentence. I really do not want to be rude about people who are so far up their own jacksies that they actually believe they are invincible so much so that the Wall St pack will finance them..BUT..look at the A388 event with the T972 of Qantas in Changi...and then look at the luggage system in Denver and that should make you think...well... exactly who designed these machines..YUP..academic statistical warlocks.
Does anyone remember when PAX used to board at both the fore and aft doors?
Dan Ciavardini 1
A couple of thoughts...If airlines stopped fleecing passengers for checked bags it would encourge passengers to check bags and alleviate the nonsense of trying to stuff a bag into overhead bin. They should charge for excessive overhead bin storage instead...I can remember boarding Pan Am and Peoples Express from both front and rear exits, if you were 1st class you went in front door, if seats row 20 and back for instance you went thru rear door, granted it adds grounf facility cost but just sayin....
J L 1
I love that suggestion - windows first, middle then aisles. Wonder if it would be practical in application.
I'm always amazed at how well southwest passengers queue up though.
skg172 1
The NY Times released a study regarding the airplane boarding process a while ago with an interesting animation:
WhiteKnight77 1
If the above link's videos do not work for you, try the one at .
Jean roosman 1
Have never understood why you don't fill seats from back to front of plane . There would then be no one waiting for someone to stow their luggage and no one climbing over another passenger to get to their seat! It seems so obvious, I must be missing something!!!
Pete Templin 1
Because Johnny Aisleseat wants to stow his bag before Billy/Betty Seatmates get to sit, so everyone waits. Or, Jane/John Doe in row 20 decide to stand near the boarding line while those in row 30+ can't get to the line.
Peter Henty 1
How about actually keeping to rules.
No 350lbs of carry on luggage.most cabin crew need a pry bar to close.
Ding Ding!
Weigh checked bags no brainier.
Weigh carry on and volume amount.
I travel a little and mostly abroad.
A. If domestic most people pack to the gills to avoid extortion checked. Also to avoid the upward of 30 mins if your lucky wait for a checked bag. Employ more baggage handlers,or be more efficient there.
B. 1st bag checked FREE,see answer A
C. Carry ons if oversize and or weight at this point CHARGE! Most people carry more than necessary including myself.
D. When landed do not hold on Tarmac taxiways,no gate? surprise surprise ? Planes are in communication i believe with ground.
Well unload at an alternative contingent location.
Again be more efficient.
International yes I can understand logistics of immigration etc.

Keep a sense of humor ,if you travel by plane you are going to need it.
Ps what happened to old fashioned service?
Read above comment about humor.
WhiteKnight77 1
It would help if the gate agent had people with the roll around carry-ons put them in the sizer prior to boarding and if it does not fit, put a tag on it for stowing in the cargo hold right then as well as ensure that people only have one carry-on plus a small personal bag. Anything more, one has to go in the hold.
Wally Piper 1
People kill me with their yearning for the "good old days" of air travel. The legacy experience is still available. You just have to pay an old fashioned fare to get it. Buy a first class ticket and get the genteel experience you crave.
Pete Templin 1
I think there's a mistake in the title here...mathematicians develop a new way to improve boarding by optimizing the seat assignments. In other words, no more choosing your own seat, and faster boarding is a byproduct of computer-assigned seats.
Daniel Dornheim 1
Stupid question: How do they figure my "optimal speed"? I can already hear some groups claiming this is a form of discrimination.
To expand on Mike Davis' opening post, nowadays, not only do you have the levels of elite flyers, but also folk like me who have a credit card which allows priority boarding, even when I don't have any elite status. I often find these early boarders, myself included, sitting in aisle seats, and it does indeed slow things down, even if just one row boards aisle-center-window. On the plus side, elites & Explorer card holders are allowed one free checked bag, which should ameliorate the shortage of overhead storage.
Of course, there are those who, once situated, must stand up again, blocking the aisle to access their bag stored overhead.
Airlines already place bag sizers in check in and gate areas, but I've never seen anyone actually use them.
I flew a China Airlines A330 flight from KUL to TPE this spring and noticed that pax boarded and disembarked at a rate which was almost a blur (I was seated at the boarding door). The flight attendant could not say "Xie xie" fast enough.
My take on this: allow everyone one free checked bag, but have strict enforcement of weight limits; I think many foreigh carriers are doing this. Board the rear and windows first and enforce the zone system.
Can anybody comment on whether the re-arrangement of economy seats in 777s from 2-5-2 to 3-3-3 has any effect on boarding speed?
Yazoo 1
Pete you have it right. The big factor here is that the airline assigns your seat. I might work in a place, like China, where the government tells you what to do. It would never work in a free world ..... Well at least until you sell your tickets so cheap that people are willing to board like cattle (SWA) or buy a standing room only seat as Ryan air has proposed.
AEA711 1
They could also save money and time by taking out seats and make people stand. Then just push them in like in the cheap fare sector is usual. Hell yeah. Please, this is aviation people, not a toy. Miss the good ol´times when flying was nice when flying was a comfort and a priveledge and not a way of making money for certain managers...
twhiteca 1
On two flights last month, trans-continental in and out of SFO, the gate agents announced that anyone with a Zone 5 boarding pass with carry-on should come to the counter and get a free luggage check as there would be no way that these bags would get on board - the carry-on space would be filled by those with Zone 1-2-3&4 boarding passes. Sure enough, the boarding started and some people tried to cut the line but to give the gate agents credit (United and US Air) they did a pretty good job of controlling the flow. So, on the early zone passes went dragging all manner of carry-on with them to fill every available nook and cranny whether in the immediate vicinity of their seat or not. Funnily enough, my wife and I, seated next to each other, ended up with her with a Zone 2 pass and me with a Zone 5. They let me board with her, but even at that with just Zone 1 (and the Elite, Super Elite, President's Club and other higher-up's) getting on ahead of us our overhead was already packed full by, as it turns out, a woman sitting four rows further forward who had three large carry-on bags.
I'm sticking with Southwest. Fast, and I seldom fail to get the seat I want. A side-benefit is that you get a preview of your potential seatmates and the options available, which is sometimes important.
Stefan Sobol 1
Airlines should make you carry your carryons over your head from the gate area to the aircraft door. If you can't do that your bags are too heavy for you to manage and must be checked. There could be someone at the door to tag your bag and throw it down to the ramp. Simple. Done.
rjb4000 1
If that guy thinks he is the first to mathematically model boarding, he's about as crazy as his strategy…
Wally Piper 1
Thats what I was thinking. Just google airline boarding studies or the like. This has been studied for years. But this story came out of China. Ever boarded a commercial flight in china?
Phillip Brooks 1
In future airplane construction, no overhead bins should be present. Except for a purse or bag that would fit under a seat, there should be no carry-on luggage and airlines should allow these to be checked without charge.

Think about how quickly people could be seated and especially how much easier getting off the plane would be without having to wait for a passenger to get their luggage to or from those overhead bins.
Exactly. Which means the real the real improvement needs to be in baggage handling. Doesn't do any good to deplane quickly then wait for baggage for 30 min. Baggage should beat the pax to the p/u area. Having baggage stored over your head can't be a good thing safety wise.
Jason Feldman 1
It doesn't take a mathematician to find a better way to board - we all knew the way we do it is insane. I am amazed anyone would even pay attention to a suggestion.. the airlines are so damn set in their ways (at least most of them)

Im glad someone got through to those who can make suggestions - It was long overdue.
Michael Scotts 1
All of this was recently tested and proved on a recent "Mythbusters'" Plane Boarding/Bite the Bullet, in which Adam and Jamie attempt to improve the lives of commercial airline passengers by testing the most efficient and effective ways of boarding a plane. To investigate, they mock up an exact replica of the interior of a 173-seat plane, complete with a full crew of professional flight attendants and volunteer passengers.


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