Aviation

Revealed: the fastest way to board a plane

We all know that the worst part of going on holiday is waiting to get on the plane. Don’t deny it.

Then, once you get on, there is always, always a blockage of some sort on the plane. Like someone trying to fit a weeks worth of luggage into a overhead compartment, or someone sitting in the wrong seat and having to try and backtrack down the plane.

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We’ve been there. And it has to stop.

Most airlines load passengers on rear rows first, in blocks depending on their seating – which makes trying to board a plane probably the most time consuming it can possibly be.

And yes, it’s annoying. But it’s also costly for the airlines. According to the ABC, passenger boarding delays cost serious dollars.

For example, an idling plane can cost the airline upwards of $40 (and all the way up to $337) a minute, with delays costing almost $40 billion each year – and that’s just in the US.

Luckily, one astrophysicist has been running it over in his mind.

Dr Jason Steffen developed a boarding method almost a decade ago, but airports and airlines have yet to materialise the idea.

To find the quickest way to board a plane, Steffen made a model of a plane and compared boarding rear rows first and front rows first in a simulation, assuming that front rows first would be the slowest. But both boarding methods had almost identical times.

In 2012, Steffen conducted an experimental test with television producer Jon Hotchkiss, where the pair recruited people to board a mock Boeing 757 with 12 rows of six seats and an aside down the centre.

Steffen’s method was compared to boarding in blocks from the rear, random seating and “Wilma” seating – window seats, followed by middle seats, then aisle seats last.

Block boarding (the method currently used) was the slowest, taking almost seven minutes. And Steffen’s method was the fastest, taking just over three and a half minutes.

Steffen’s genius method goes like this:

  • If a plane has 20 rows of seats, with three either side of the window, 20A will board first
  • Then 18A, 16A, 14A and so forth
  • Then boarding shifts to the other side of the plane: 20F, 18F and so on
  • Next, the odd row window seats board in the same way
  • Repeat for middle seats and aisle seats

And that’s it!

However, while some airlines have taken up boarding from both the front and rear doors, none have picked up Steffen’s method since it was published in 2008.

“We’ve had some low-level interest, but nothing’s materialised yet,” he said.

And as for the future of boarding planes? Steffen thinks airlines should still allocate seats, but give up their current boarding method.

“My advice to airlines would be: aeroplane’s open, everyone jump aboard,” he said.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

  • txcon1

    Southwest more or less boards this way and has about the fastest turns of any major airline.

    I’m sitting now waiting to board in group 4 on a United flight and SWA probably would have turned two flights in the amount of time I’ve been sitting here.

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