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Transportation Math Science

Strict Order Boarding Would Get Planes in the Sky Faster 880

Posted by Zonk
from the up-up-and-away dept.
electrostatic writes "In a Nature.com oldie-but-goodie, a physicist says he has solved a problem that costs airlines millions every year: what is the quickest way to get passengers aboard an aircraft? Boarding is a serious issue for airlines, particularly those operating short flights that run several times a day, yet boarding times have steadily increased for decades. Back in 2005 Jason Steffen of the Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois said the method used by many airlines to this day is almost the worst. 'The best way to board, according to the researchers, would be a row-by-row, seat-by-seat, strict order. That would mean everyone lines up, row 25 first. I can't imagine fliers will go for that. Next best, they say, would be boarding all the window seats first, followed by those in the aisle. Obviously that's not practical, at least for couples or families traveling together.'"
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Strict Order Boarding Would Get Planes in the Sky Faster

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  • Not Faster (Score:5, Interesting)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:23PM (#22619838)
    It would be faster until some guy arrives 5 minutes later then everyone else and has to go through security and get on the plane, because of the order everyone would have to stop, let him through, reorganize and then go through. In an ideal situation it would be faster but chaos is quicker then order because order can never truly happen.
    • Re:Not Faster (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GoodbyeBlueSky1 (176887) <joeXbanks@NosPAm.hotmail.com> on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:35PM (#22619940)
      Exactly. This study is taking an assembly-line operations approach to a process involving humans, who might be late, have special needs (e.g. "I can't lift this 300-lb carry-on into the overhead, please help"), have incomplete paperwork; all kinds of variables are at play. The failures of such an approach should be self-evident in real-world scenarios.

      Also, what difference would this truly make? Airports already maximize the number of takeoffs from multiple gates. The plane has no choice but to take off at time X, regardless of how annoying the boarding process is. Any successful implementation of speeding up this process means that everybody waits on the plane longer versus in the seating area at the gate.

      Focus on the ridiculous security procedures, that's where I get pissed off when traveling.
      • by clem (5683) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:02AM (#22620122) Homepage

        Exactly. This study is taking an assembly-line operations approach to a process involving humans, who might be late, have special needs (e.g. "I can't lift this 300-lb carry-on into the overhead, please help"), have incomplete paperwork; all kinds of variables are at play. The failures of such an approach should be self-evident in real-world scenarios.
        Of course this is a physicist we're talking about who designed the scheme. He's probably abstracted the passengers as perfect frictionless spheres.
      • Re:Not Faster (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dal20402 (895630) * <dal20402@Nospam.mac.com> on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:18AM (#22620236) Journal

        Also, what difference would this truly make? Airports already maximize the number of takeoffs from multiple gates. The plane has no choice but to take off at time X, regardless of how annoying the boarding process is. Any successful implementation of speeding up this process means that everybody waits on the plane longer versus in the seating area at the gate.

        Most airlines at most airports (i.e. all airports but jammed nightmares such as LGA, JFK in the evening, or ORD) are not capacity limited. If they can turn around planes quicker, that means more legs per day throughout the system, which translates directly into money. For example, Southwest has been continuously refining its boarding process for quite some time to try to shave minutes off turn time. They are at 25 to 30 minutes at most airports; they would dearly love to get that down to 20.

        Even at capacity-limited airports, quicker turn times can get the plane out of the airport more quickly, saving time in the rest of the system. At delay-prone airports, quicker turns can help keep the system on schedule. One delayed major airport, such as EWR for Continental, can screw up an airline's entire network in a real hurry.

        In 1998, Boeing introduced the 757-300, a super-stretch variant of the narrowbody 757 we know and love from transcontinental U.S. flights. The plane has the lowest cost per passenger-mile of any large jet in existence. Nevertheless, it didn't sell well. At least some of the operators who rejected it did so because, as a narrowbody with ~45 rows of seats, its turn times were just too long to fit smoothly into a short-haul operation. Instead, because of the turn times, those airlines are operating either smaller 757-200s (UA, AA) or widebodies such as the 767-300 (DL) or Airbus A300 (AA, LH). That's how critical turn times are to airline ops.

        • by trawg (308495) on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:05AM (#22620576) Homepage
          I wonder if dual boarding (ie, boarding from the front and the back at the same time) would be cost efficient for them. They'd obviously need almost 2x as many staff to cover both entrances, but maybe that cost is less than having the plane delayed due to boarding problems.

          I'm always annoyed that I can't disembark via the back exit when I'm getting off (I always get stuck in the rear of the plane), and it irks me to be standing in a long queue to get on the plane when I know they could effectively double the bandwidth by opening up the back entry. I guess they don't want people walking on the tarmac unless they absolutely have to.
          • by mr_matticus (928346) on Monday March 03, 2008 @03:35AM (#22621270)
            Because planes are not a uniform length, and the jetways are absurdly expensive to begin with--far too expensive to replace with new double-ended ones. The alternative, open air-stairs, is no good in inclement weather and the overall cost in terms of security and remodeling boarding gates to accomodate more flow through the staff door would be cost-prohibitive.

            There really is no good system. The inverse pyramid section-number situation really would work best overall if people obeyed and if gate crews enforced it. Instead, people scramble to be first in line when their number is called so they can get to their seat first...I guess because they like getting up two or three times to let people slip past, thus blocking the whole aisle and generally slowing everything down.

            The fundamental problem isn't the infrastructure. It's not even the inconvenient configuration of the aircraft. It's the damn passengers. I was on a widebody that boarded (nearly full) in under 20 minutes once. The flight had been delayed four or five times over the span of six hours, and because of the weather, the crew informed the passengers that if they didn't get their asses in the seats quickly and without incident, we'd miss the only takeoff slot likely available. It worked.
            • by Builder (103701) on Monday March 03, 2008 @04:58AM (#22621534)
              I have a good reason for wanting to get to my seat first - luggage. I always obey the carry-on luggage rules, but I often transport delicate and valuable stuff. As a result, I need my overhead space.

              Sadly, many people do NOT follow the rules, and unless I get onto the plane fast, I often have no overhead space to stow my gear, meaning that it's out of sight for most of the flight.

              This is why I always book seats at the back of the plane :D
            • by F34nor (321515) * on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:44AM (#22621662)
              I was on United flight from Portland to somewhere east. The crew informed us that we had basically 15 minutes to board the plane or we would lose our spot and have to wait on the runway for an hour. She then told us "You will line up by rows with the highest numbers at the front of the line and the lowest at the back. If you neighbor in line has a higher number you will let them go in front of you. If you don't have any carryon baggage and see someone who needs help you will help them." She also told us we would be polite and helpful to each other, and put our bags in any nearby compartment. The plane filled up like pouring water into a cup. It really was a moment of Zen, by being enslaved we were set free. Everything went according to plan. Everyone was polite (it was a flight out of Portland) and we were done with 5 minutes to spare everyone clapped. It was honestly one of the best moments of flying I ever had. I am sure the flight crew had been working for Southwest or had recently flown southwest because one of them made a joke about people who hadn't been in a car since 1960 not knowing how to operate a seatbelt. The opposite is true anytime I fly in Asia. I fly a lot in the gulf and India and the people's behavior is horrible. When they announce the flight everyone jumps up and starts pushing. It is the same as the driving here, get yours first and fuck everyone else. God I miss America.
              • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:13AM (#22621766) Homepage
                if you[sic] neighbor in line has a higher number you will let them go in front of you.

                That stewardess just re-invented the bubble sort!

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by dk.r*nger (460754)

                  That stewardess just re-invented the bubble sort!

                  Well, yes, but the limitations of bubblesort is tied to the assumption that there's only thread working on the problem - in the boarding queue you have n threads, for a problemsize of n, which eliminates the square execution time of bubblesort - the boarding queue bubblesort will execute in O(n), which is pretty close to optimal, given the overhead of explaining a more complicated algorithm, which has the limiting factor of single-threaded (the announcer) exe

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by merreborn (853723)

                  if you[sic] neighbor in line has a higher number you will let them go in front of you.
                  That stewardess just re-invented the bubble sort!
                  Massively parallel bubblesort, at that. Bubble sort is far more efficient when the things you're sorting run the comparison operations themselves!
            • by p3d0 (42270) on Monday March 03, 2008 @10:37AM (#22623126)

              There really is no good system.
              Sure there is. You just have to open the whole side of the plane and let everyone sit simultaneously, as shown in this photo [funkandjunk.com].
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DrXym (126579)
            Two doors are much faster for disembarking at one. I occasionally fly between an airport where you board through steps at the front and rear and one which is usually a single boarding walkway / gate system. The steps are always faster.

            The first airport has just been rebuilt with walkways but no planes are using them! I would hazard a guess that the airlines told the airport to get lost because it was faster to board / unboard with steps instead.

      • Re:Not Faster (Score:4, Insightful)

        by $random_var (919061) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:20AM (#22620246)

        Also, what difference would this truly make? Airports already maximize the number of takeoffs from multiple gates. The plane has no choice but to take off at time X, regardless of how annoying the boarding process is. Any successful implementation of speeding up this process means that everybody waits on the plane longer versus in the seating area at the gate.


        What difference? Profits. Southwest is the only profitable US airline and has been for decades. One of the key differences is that Southwest optimizes the hell out of their turnaround procedures, and although they suck on many of the airline industry's traditional metrics (average used capacity per flight, for example) their planes spend a lot longer in the air because they spend a lot LESS time on the ground. Planes are not making money while they're on the ground waiting for people to be seated.

        Why should you care if the airlines are making a profit? The more lucrative the industry, the more companies enter the field, the more competition, and the better prices and service we get. Maybe not right away, but in the long run we do like the companies that provide services to us to minimize their costs.
      • No carry ons... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shmlco (594907) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:41AM (#22620404) Homepage
        ""I can't lift this 300-lb carry-on into the overhead..."

        Bingo. The problem is that people can't get on and sit down because half the plane is trying to find a place to stowe their carry-on bags.

        Which means that the solution, as I've often maintained, is to ban all carry-on luggage with the exception of purses and one briefcase or small backpack per person. Everything else goes through as checked backage. No garment bags. No wheelies. Nothing else.

        This also speeds up getting OFF the plane, as everyone isn't now trying to get their 300lb bags down, and also speeds up security as well, since there are fewer bags to scan and x-ray and manually search. It wasn't bad when just the stewies did it. Now 2/3rds of the plane is trying to "save time" as well, and it's just not working.
        • Re:No carry ons... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ximenes (10) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:53AM (#22620494)
          Perhaps if airlines weren't renowned for losing / mis-routing luggage, more people would check in bags than lug around carry-ons. Not to mention the hassle that can often be involved with claiming bags in general.

          A lack of confidence in the company or industry generally makes people take steps to avoid being personally effected, which in turn can make things worse in general.
          • by raehl (609729) <raehl311@@@yahoo...com> on Monday March 03, 2008 @03:48AM (#22621314) Homepage
            There are two big reasons to carry on luggage.

            One, it saves you 20-30 minutes of waiting around for your bags to get off the plane. (And in rare circumstances, it can save you an hour or more when, for example, your bags can't come off the plane because of lightning.)

            Two, and more important to business travelers, is it preserves flexibility. If you've carried on your luggage, and something odd happens to your flight, you can take your bag, get off, and get on another plane. If your bag has been checked, you then have to figure out how you're going to get your bags that are coming in on a different flight.
            • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:13AM (#22621768)
              There are two big reasons to carry on luggage.

              You forgot the third: A change of underwear and some basic toiletries, in case the rest of your luggage ends up in Novosibirsk, Siberia, instead of your intended destination, and you have to wait two days for it to get back to you.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Abcd1234 (188840)
                and you have to wait two days for it to get back to you.

                Or forever. My wife and I had our luggage lost by an airline the day before we were set to depart for a cruise... and they never found them.

                Never again will I check a bag.
        • Re:No carry ons... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Maniakes (216039) on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:40AM (#22620778) Journal
          Banning carry-ons would speed up the process of actually getting on and off the plane, but I very much doubt it would significantly speed up the process of getting out of the airport after you get off. You get off the plane 5-10 minutes faster, go to baggage claim, and wait for your bag. How often to you get to baggage claim and find your bag already on the conveyer belt waiting for you? How much longer would you have to wait if there were another hundred checked bags per flight because of the elimination of overhead bins?
        • Re:No carry ons... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by metlin (258108) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:34AM (#22621846) Journal
          Are you kidding me? You probably don't fly often enough.

          As someone who flies at least twice a week (and I am typing this from an airport at 5:30 AM, funnily enough), I would literally hate life if carry-ons were banned.

          As a frequent flyer and a business traveler, carry-ons are the saviors. You don't have to wait in life for checking in a bag, you walk through priority check-in and you don't wait for your luggage to reach you. And given how often I fly, the chances of my bags ending up elsewhere is significantly higher - I'd rather not take that chance (and yes, it's happened in the past, on more than one occasion).

          No garment bags. No wheelies. Nothing else.
          God, I'd hate you. Carrying around my laptop and a bunch of notes hurts my shoulders, and the only thing that makes it bearable is the fact that I can put it on top of my wheeled carry-on.

          Now, here's a better alternative -- permit carry-ons, but have the crew do a curb-side check-in of the bags (i.e. they take all the big bags from you before you board the plane).

          No carry-ons? That's a business travelers nightmare. I'd rather spend 1/2 hour extra than give up my carry-on.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tacocat (527354)

        I think part of the point, if not most of it, has been missed through limited explanation. I think there is some potential here and some added advantages. What if you had a Mock Plane in the waiting area which had all the seats in specific order layed out on the carpet? That has the advantage of lots of access points because there are no walls like planes so getting into that seating arrangement would be trivial. Moving from that seating area to the actual plane would consist of only the ticket check.

        T

    • by JanneM (7445) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:39PM (#22619968) Homepage

      It would be faster until some guy arrives 5 minutes later then everyone else and has to go through security and get on the plane,...
      "Sorry Sir, your row already boarded. Please see our Courtesy Office over in Terminal Z about rebooking for a later flight. Quite serious, Sir. Yes Sir, same to you too. No Sir, I do believe that act is anatomically impossible. Sir, you are aware of course that as a human you are mostly water? Now, do you want us to press the point that you have knowingly passed through security while being a liquid container greater than 100ml? No, I did not think so, Sir. Terminal Z? Over there, to the left and doen the hall for oh, twenty minutes or so. Bye Sir."

    • Re:Not Faster (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tompaulco (629533) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:41PM (#22619976) Homepage Journal
      It would be faster until some guy arrives 5 minutes later then everyone else and has to go through security and get on the plane, because of the order everyone would have to stop, let him through, reorganize and then go through. In an ideal situation it would be faster but chaos is quicker then order because order can never truly happen.
      If you aren't there 15 minutes (20 for some airlines) prior to boarding, then you aren't getting on the plane. Since it should only take 15 minutes to get everybody organized, the late of their own accord person is not a problem. The problem is the late because of the airlines person. That person doesn't have to be at the gate 15 minutes prior to takeoff. It wouldn't be fair to impose that requirement on a connecting passenger, since it is the airline's fault that he is late. But his being late would definitely screw up some sort of organized boarding system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ryanov (193048)
        I am intentionally the "late guy" in most cases, though not late enough to delay the plane. I live 15 mins by bus from EWR. I shoot for arriving at the airport about 10-15 mins tops before the boarding time (which is the latest you can get baggage onto the plane, or 30 mins, whichever is larger -- if I'm not mistaken). I then stroll over to a breakfast/lunch/whatever place and order myself something to eat on the plane (since the airline no longer is willing to). I generally board next to last, at around th
    • Re:Not Faster (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Deanalator (806515) <pierce403@gmail.com> on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:20AM (#22620248) Homepage
      You do realize that if his row had already boarded, he could just simply walk on right? The only one made any later is him.

      Loading the front rows first is absolutely ridiculous. While rows 1-5 fumble around trying to cram their stuff in the overhead compartments, rows 6-10 just have to wait until they figure it out, then they get to fumble around with their overhead compartments while 11-15 are blocked. If you load from the back first, people can fumble with their luggage all at the same time, and no isles ever get blocked in the process. It's just common sense, and I am very glad that I am not the only one that is dumbfounded every time they see this. I do, however, think it's funny that someone managed to get this published in nature :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I guess it would be impossible to just let the late person go in the next boarding phase. It would also be absurd to use the system, but allow parents to board with their young children. After all, the solution is being proposed by a physicist, and we all know that the stuff they come up with never pans out in the real world.

      Stick to your Big Bangs and your quantum tunneling, Einsteins, and leave airport management to the people who brought us shoe-fetish security theater.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yes that rarefied quantum tunnelling ... that makes semiconductors work ... that make the computer you typed this on work ... ..and you do realise that most physicists work with this kind of mundane problem as their job ...?

  • by netwiz (33291) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:23PM (#22619840) Homepage
    Well, boo-hoo. I'm so sorry for the First-Class jerks having to be seated last. They get real chairs, plenty of room, and have paid for that. Not to be seated first even though it makes it that much more difficult for everyone else.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hes Nikke (237581)
      they should move first class to the back of the plane and then all the rich fucks might have to see how crappy the rest of the plan is....
    • by hax0r_this (1073148) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:31PM (#22619912)
      I never even understood why you would want to board the plane first in first class. You lose your freedom of movement sooner, and once you are seated they go ahead and file everyone else right through the first class cabin. They should just have nice reserved seating in the waiting areas for first class passengers, then board from the back of the plane forward. Even if they don't do it perfectly, it could hardly be worse than making everyone wait for the person in front of them to finish stuffing crap in the overhead bins before even going back to their seat.
      • by isaac (2852) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:42PM (#22619986)

        I never even understood why you would want to board the plane first in first class.


        The main reason is overhead bin space. Somehow, a fair segment of they flying public labors under the belief that it is correct and proper to stow their baggage in the first available overhead bin. Board late in first class (assuming an aircraft boarding through a door forward of that cabin) and you're likely to find a fraction of the overhead bin space occupied by F passenger bags, and the remainder occupied by coach passenger bags.

        The secondary reason is that notwithstanding a planeload of passengers filing past you, the F cabin is still a more pleasant place to be than the gate area.

        -Isaac
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tompaulco (629533)
        If first class boards first, and they have used up all of their overhead space, they can use some of the cattle class overheads. Plus, they get to block traffic trying to get to the back of the plane while they steal space from other passengers, and then have to force their way back forward to the first class seats. If done correctly, one first class passenger can delay takeoff by 5 minutes, even longer if they forget which way is forward.
      • by Quarters (18322) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:04AM (#22620134)
        Because they usually start serving the drinks in first class immediately after you sit down.
      • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:21AM (#22620258) Homepage Journal
        That's because in first class you have a lot of stuff to get going. You have to get the complimentary champagne going, the foot massage, and select a random person from coach to be flogged for your amusement. If they waited until last to get seated, that'd take forever!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I never even understood why you would want to board the plane first in first class

        I've got new for you, most of the pompous prats I know who travel first class wait in the airline lounge until they are personally called to board the plane. So in fact they board last. The worst offenders of this I know have PhDs. They love the sound of "would Dr Blogs please board flight BR564 at gate 6".

    • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:39PM (#22619970) Journal
      I fly at least once a week, often twice (last year I logged 86 flights). I fly first class - not because I pay for it, but because I am a member of several mileage plans, and get free upgrades 90% of the time.

      My experience has been that rarely does first class hold things up; yes, we get seated first, but how often do you have someone in the aisle, taking off their jacket, their sweater, cell phone out to put in the jacket, put their bags above, dig out their laptop, then sit down?

      When I have to fly what I actually paid for - coach - 90% of the delays are people not prepared. They stand in the aisle, digging through bags to get out MP3 players, or their laptop. They decide they want to take of their jacket once they're on the plane, rather than in the airport.

      Too many who fly simply don't understand that it's a cooperative effort. Bag overhead, get in your seat, buckle up. Wait until you're up above 10,000 feet before you stand up to dig out your laptop or MP3 player (you can't run it until that point, anyway). Take your jacket off before you board the plane. If you have an aisle seat, wait until near the end of your section/group is called since you'll have to get up anyway to let the window seat in; if you're a window seat, queue up first in our group.

      It's not surprising that first class usually contains heavy fliers, who understand these basic facts; it's usually the novice - or very infrequent - flier who is constantly being told to buckle up, put your bag under the seat in front of you or overhead (no you can't keep it on your lap), raise your seatback before we push back, no you cannot use the head as we're taxiing, turn off your cellphone NOW, etc.

      Signed,

      A "first class jerk"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Martin Blank (154261)
        Aside from the rare free bump for space, I fly coach everywhere, but I have learned efficient processes to make my experience -- and those around me -- smoother. I take on only the minimum required carry-on baggage, which is usually my notebook backpack. I stow it immediately under the seat in front of me, and then I sit down. On rare occasions, I have to carry an additional bag with me, but I'm already picking out where it's going a good five rows before I reach my own. That bag is carried in front of
      • by p0tat03 (985078) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:36AM (#22620372)

        I'm an occasional traveler - maybe 10 times a year. Still a lot more frequent than the general public I think, and I know my way around flying. I agree with you wholeheartedly, and would like to add that this isn't just a problem in the cabin, but also at check-in.

        Yes, you know the ones. The big family of 6 clearly taking the plane for the first time in their lives, who saunter up to the check-in counter, no ID in hand, no documents in hand, and then spend the next 10 minutes digging through luggage for the documents they should've known they'd need in the first place.

        Seriously people. Have your luggage in order, make sure it's not overweight AT HOME, have you boarding pass printed, and your drivers license/passport/what have you in-hand. I do, and I'm in and out of that check-in procedure in 30 seconds FLAT.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Sir, have you ever tried to organize a mob including 4 children on a trip? I've done it with in-laws, and it's very awkward. The priority is keeping everyone safe, including the kids and innocent bystanders. The paperwork often gets disorganized in the resulting chaos.
  • this is happening (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iocat (572367) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:25PM (#22619852) Homepage Journal
    This is now the way Southwest boards, and it's quick and rational (as is their "no assigned seating" plan, especially for their typical short flights). Everyone gets a number, and the boarding is in groups of five. United has also tried (and still tries as far as I know) windows first, then middles, then aisles, but the system fails because of familes or others travelling together, all receiving the same boarding group. Also, "elite flyers" board first and screw everything up... United's system works pretty well most of the time though, but the real problem is you can't get everyone ready to board right when they open the doors, so it's never as rational as it should be (eg, some person in row 29 is going to board when row 18 is boarding and cause a traffic jam). Southwest's new system works well because they really don't care when you board or where you sit -- the line up is mostly so frequent flyers and early check-in-ers get the best choice of seats.
    • by mcrbids (148650) on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:23AM (#22620698) Journal
      This is now the way Southwest boards, and it's quick and rational (as is their "no assigned seating" plan, especially for their typical short flights).

      No it isn't. All SouthWest has is a way to keep the lines shorter. Once you get on the plane, you can sit wherever you like. Of course, if you don't get an "A" ticket, you can kiss your chance for a window seat goodbye. But you still end up with the dork who holds up the entire line of people boarding so that he can get a seat near the front while he takes off his jacket and digs in his carry-on bag for his MP3 player before putting it above.

      Me? I'm more of a "Coach-jerk". I check in everything I can. I board quickly, usually with an "A" ticket. I go for the window seat, my laptop goes on the floor in front of me, my jacket goes into the seat next to me. I pull my hat down, lean back, and start reading.

      Usually, I get the seat next to me empty, though if anybody asks, I'm nice about moving my jacket. Coach is so much nicer when you have a nice, empty seat next to you to park your crap!

      But when we get off, that's where everybody does the stupid - they all rush off the plane so that they can stand for 20 minutes at the baggage claim. Me? I wait until EVERYBODY is off the plane, reading my book or whatever. When *everybody* is OFF the plane and the stewardess is wondering what to say to me, that's when I get off. A nice, easy walk to the baggage claim, and I get there right as the bags first start popping out every time.
      • Re:this is happening (Score:5, Informative)

        by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Monday March 03, 2008 @02:03AM (#22620920)

        Of course, if you don't get an "A" ticket, you can kiss your chance for a window seat goodbye.

        Anyone can get an "A" ticket; you don't even have to pay extra. Just check in 24 hours (exactly) before your flight online. You usually get a pretty low number, too.

        Me? I'm more of a "Coach-jerk". I check in everything I can. I board quickly, usually with an "A" ticket. I go for the window seat, my laptop goes on the floor in front of me, my jacket goes into the seat next to me. I pull my hat down, lean back, and start reading.

        Seat 11E on Southwest 737-700 and 737-300 airplanes has a built-in space to the right. Seat 12F has tons of legroom, because there is no seat 11F. Seats 11A, 11B, and 11C have about 10 extra inches of legroom. Often people overlook these seats for some reason; I cannot contemplate why anyone flying alone would turn down a seat with extra room.

        They call it an exit row. I call it "first class".

        You should avoid the forward lavatory on Southwest, if you're a guy and he aft lavatory is open. The forward lavatory has the "Southwest 737 Forward Lavatory Seat Bug" - the toilet seat will not stay up because the curvature of the aircraft prevents it from tilting past straight up.

        But when we get off, that's where everybody does the stupid - they all rush off the plane so that they can stand for 20 minutes at the baggage claim.


        Did you ever stop to think that some people may have connecting flights? Ever flown through LAS or MDW on Southwest? Ever get delayed and have to run to make a tight connection?

        Usually, I get the seat next to me empty, though if anybody asks, I'm nice about moving my jacket. Coach is so much nicer when you have a nice, empty seat next to you to park your crap!

        Ahh, so you're that guy. I guess I don't really care. 80% of Southwest flights I'm on are 100% full, no seats free. Comfortable? Not exactly. Cost effective? Absolutely. You can't have $59 tickets from Denver to Oakland if you don't fill the planes.
  • Heap? (Score:5, Funny)

    by paul248 (536459) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:26PM (#22619870) Homepage
    Please line up in a tree and maintain the heap invariant while boarding. Thank you for flying nlogn airlines.
    • Re:Heap? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Skreech (131543) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:46PM (#22620008)
      Is n the distance you're traveling? If so, I think I'll stick with n airlines rather than nlogn airlines.

      n^2 airlines is complete trash though.
    • by sconeu (64226) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:29AM (#22620320) Homepage Journal
      This study reminds me of the old joke about the early days of the space race.

      NASA was worried about the effects of hi-G on astronauts, so they hired some ivory-tower types to work on the problem.

      About three months later, they came back to NASA and said, "We've solved it!"

      The NASA manager in charge asked them to detail their solution.

      The head professor said, "OK. First, assume a perfectly spherical astronaut...."
  • by eln (21727) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:28PM (#22619882) Homepage
    The fastest way to board is to have the seating area at the airport be a removable replica of the seating area inside the airplane. Then, when the plane arrives, the entire airplane opens up, the seating area (with passengers) is removed with a gigantic crane-like machine, and the new seating area (formerly known as the airport waiting area) is loaded in. The area formerly known as the airplane seating area is then put into place inside the airport, and becomes the new airport waiting area. Voila, the entire boarding process in 2 minutes.

    That's probably the fastest way without resorting to powerful vacuums, but probably not terribly practical. The most practical way would be to build the plane with sufficient space in the aisle to avoid the "fat guy with the large carry-on that clearly doesn't fit into the overhead bin holding everyone up" problem, but they'd never go for that.

    So, maybe a giant vacuum (for disembarking) combined with a giant cannon (for boarding) is the best way. We couldn't guarantee seat assignment this way, of course, but if we encased everyone in foam like the stuff in that car in Demolition Man, it should work with a minimum of injuries.

    The problem with these researchers is they aren't thinking outside the box enough.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zippthorne (748122)
      Darn it, you beat me to it.

      I wasn't going to suggest a crane though. I thought you could put the seating area on overhead rails like factories have. Match those suckers up, and drive the passenger module into the plane at 3g with a linear motor.

      The most practical though would probably be to take the weight hit and put doors every six rows. Redesign the jetway for multiple access points and load all at once. The exit rows can have fold-away seats so that space won't be wasted.

      Only cheap-ass cars require
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why not have the waiting/seating area resemble the plane layout. The people can sit down where they're supposed to sit on the plane. Then you have the seat number plastered all over so people can get their seat number unconsciously ingrained in their head. Then the stewardess comes along and says "Seat 29 go ahead....Seat 28 get onboard...." All the way down. It doesn't have to resemble the plane seats. Just the layout.

      There. i solved it. Thanks to your removable seat theory.
  • They could shave some time off of the boarding process - but there is way too little cargo space inside the aircraft. For those who travel often (I'm in a commercial jet more often than my car), the early boarding process gives us 'bread and butter' customers a chance to stow our gear, and those who fly once in a blue moon (usually cheap seats) a longer wait. The inefficiency is a perk, if you travel often.

    Sure, they could max/min the time better... but... this is not really something that needs fixing.
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:31PM (#22619908) Homepage Journal
    What about having a seating area near the gate that duplicates the seating arrangement on the plane?
    You require people to sit there in the correct place, and then you can easily pull people out of the temporary seating area in the correct order.
    (You would have to make it big enough for any plane type that is going to be serviced at that gate, and then only seats that exist on the plane are used)

    Or an even more interesting, but harder to do version: have the seats on the plane be on a "seat sled" that is swapped out, so that people board the sled before the plane is even there, and then you just swap sleds between the plane. You then let the arriving people depart. (Something about having most of the airframe be doors is probably the weakness of this idea). Or you could have more of the stuff be in the sled, like the entire pressurized compartment, including the galley and bathrooms. Call it the "people magazine [wikipedia.org]".
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:33PM (#22619924) Journal
    that he is right. Of course the human effect in this loop will throw everything off schedule every time. This math answer to a psychology problem is interesting, but I think that if you avoid the space issues that make boarding a plane a lot like filling a cattle trailer it will all go better anyway. They tell you how to use the seat belts, the flotation devices, even the air cup thingies, and how to smile when you use all of them but they never tell you or show you how to fscking load your luggage in the over head bins. I've traveled quite a lot, and I ALWAYS see some diminutive person struggling, or the average joe trying to figure out how to get a hexagonal object in an square hole. People, in general, are not all cut out to do abstract puzzle solving in 3D domains under pressure. Some people are good at packing to move house, others are not. Same problems for both issues.

    What is needed is training. Show people how it is supposed to be done the easiest way and most of them will comply.
  • Overhead space (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gruntled (107194) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:36PM (#22619950)
    Since all seating is assigned (some airlines notably excepted) the only reason to fight to get on before anybody else is to make sure you've got space in the overheard to store your bag. I was on one flight a couple of years ago where there literally wasn't space in the overhead to store my (relatively) small computer bag (I was seated in a row that had no under seat storage, so anything i had had to go in the overhead). One flight attendant was most insistent that my laptop would have to be gate checked; I protested and another passenger finally volunteered to have his (massive) bag in the overhead gate-checked; I bought him a drink.

    I think people would be more than willing to board by row, highest number first, if the airlines would just consistently enforce their rules about how much stuff you can carry aboard. In the winter, overhead space disappears instantly; people stow these huge coats up there along with their bags. And don't get me started about the jerks who throw their bags in the overhead at row 2 and then walk back through an empty plane to site in row 20. Half a dozen of these guys on the plane means everybody up front has to put their bags in the overhead towards the rear of the aircraft, then fight their way back up front through the embarking mob for seating, and THEN wait for everybody else to disembark to get to the rear of the aircraft to recover their bags....
  • ban children (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:37PM (#22619954)
    I have a very simple proposal. start up an airline that bans children below age 10.

    99% of the time when i travel the fuckheads that hold everything up are the soccer moms and their 2 kids and a pram bullshit. and then once your up in the air the little cunts scream and carry on. just to top it off they only take infants because it's free, only it's not free everyone else is paying for it.

    the moment there is a no children airline, sign me up.

    • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:34AM (#22620362) Journal
      I am surprised that you were modded down. I now have 2 children, but I still remember the days before. There were plenty of times that I wished for no kids or extremely heavy ppl around me. It was the later issue that lead me to fly Midwest airlines whenever possible. They were flying super 80's in 2x2 configs; not quite first class, but close enough for just a little bit more. In fact, I was surprised when frontier airlines chose to remove a row, rather than a column on their new aircrafts. They said that they wanted to fly 100% load factors. But it seems to me that a 3x3 or even better a widebody with a single column missing would easily encourage loads of Americans to fly them.

      But there is a good side to all that. If somebody starts an airline like that, it will keep ppl like you off of the flights that I am on with my children. BTW, that is not really a slam. So far, my kids have traveled great, but I have seen other kids not travel great and ppl just gripping left, right, and sideways about it. It gets old.
    • Re:ban children (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jmv (93421) on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:59AM (#22620894) Homepage
      just to top it off they only take infants because it's free

      You've obviously never travelled with an infant. Nobody in their right mind would want to travel with their infant unless absolutely necessary.
    • All children below age 10 should be part of checked baggage.
  • by Xenious (24845) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:43PM (#22619994)
    What would be faster is if everyone checked their $#@$@# luggage. People hauling their pull along bags down the aisle and then looking for overhead room and hoisting them up is a huge delay. Make them check them all and just bring a backpack or laptop bag on board, plus security checkpoints would go faster with less stuff to scan.
  • by Leuf (918654) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:43PM (#22620000)
    1) First seat all the attractive women, evenly spaced with the most attractive furthest back.
    2) Allow males to find their own seats.
    3) Fill in the gaps with the old and ugly.
    4) Store any children in the baggage h.. errr... Special Fun House.
  • by Lost+Found (844289) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:47PM (#22620020)
    The quickest way to board the plane is with a giant blender and a pump. The only problem you face is having to refund part of the ticket if a toe gets stuck in the blade and doesn't make the flight!
  • Passenger Revolt! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @11:51PM (#22620038) Homepage
    "The best way to board, according to the researchers, would be a row-by-row, seat-by-seat, strict order. That would mean everyone lines up, row 25 first. I can't imagine fliers will go for that. "

    I mean really, next thing you know someone would suggest that all fliers take off their shoes, turn over nail clippers, and not carry shampoo or extra lap-top batteries. People would never put up with stuff like that.
  • They should be able to fill it just as fast. Just open the slides, tilt them up, and slide them in from above.
  • by RetiredMidn (441788) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:02AM (#22620124) Homepage
    ...is to let people board as a group, but in the latest loading phase that any member of that group belongs to. This applies to almost any phased boarding scheme, including United's window/center/aisle phasing.

    The result is that groups have to wait to board together, but they are likely to be slightly more coordinated in staying out of each other's way than three random individuals trying to fill a row in random order.
  • by MonkeyBoyo (630427) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:25AM (#22620288)
    I once flew around the Soviet Union a few years before the fall of the Berlin wall.

    They had a very strictly enforced an order where people in the back of the jet got on last and got off first.

    It seems that on at least some Aeroflot models, if you didn't have enough passengers in the front balancing the weight of those in the rear, the plane would tip backwards.
  • by holophrastic (221104) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:36AM (#22620378)
    Digital seats, digital seat assignments, and digital boarding routines. How about somethign incredibly more simpler and less sophistimicated.

    How about loading it back to front, not by seat assignment (which requires human beings to line-up according to rules) but by the order in which those human beings walk onto the craft -- you know, like a freakin' bus. "Timmy, please move all the way to the back of the bus."

    Then, instead of controlling the problem of humans within an aircraft each having seat assignments, you get to control the order with which people board the plane. That's a lot easier and amounts to using your airline's stupid reward points to 'reward' people for taking otherwise undesirable seats.

    Especially when we're talking about short commuter flights, it's a short flight -- you don't care which seat you have. You do care how long you sit without moving -- you know, just like a bus.

    Man, a bus, I talk like I know something. It's been well over ten years since I've been on a bus. But that's not the point. Well, it's not the point here. We're talking about airplanes. I use those on a regular basis. Although I've never described the experience quite like a neighbouring passenger who said she's "made a career out of strapping a plane to my ass". I miss her. She was an advertising or marketing or sales person for a company that I don't remember, on a flight I've forgotten, going somewhere I can't recall, sometime in the last ten years. Maybe fifteen. Maybe five.

    • by evilviper (135110) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:38AM (#22621856) Journal

      Man, a bus, I talk like I know something. It's been well over ten years since I've been on a bus. But that's not the point. Well, it's not the point here. We're talking about airplanes. I use those on a regular basis. Although I've never described the experience quite like a neighbouring passenger who said she's "made a career out of strapping a plane to my ass". I miss her. She was an advertising or marketing or sales person for a company that I don't remember, on a flight I've forgotten, going somewhere I can't recall, sometime in the last ten years. Maybe fifteen. Maybe five.

      Kinda trailed-off near the end there, didn't you?

  • by davevr (29843) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:46AM (#22620454) Homepage
    I live in China. As anyone who has visited here knows, the concept of a queue or waiting in line doesn't exist. When the doors open, there is a unorganzied hoard pushing madly to get into the plane. On top of this, people totally ignore the carry-on rules and routinely have several large boxes. It is pure chaos.

    And yet, my china flights always board much faster than my US flights. The last flight I took was a fully-loaded 747 from Shanghai to Beijing. It boarded in about 10 minutes. A similar flight in US I had a few months ago took almost 30 minutes to board. I think there is something to be said for highly motivated chaos.

    On a related note, I've never been able to figure out exactly why going through security in the US takes so long. As near as I can tell, the China and US airports do the exact same screening - the liquids in the bag, laptops out, no shoes, etc. - plus a passport check - and still it is on average 3x faster. So strange...

    - davevr
  • and we would like to welcome our new passengers, the previous customers of FIFO Airlines, which went out of business due to time delays

    GIGO Airlines has offered to honor our coupons, but you don't want to fly with them if you want get where you really wanted to go
  • by 80's Greg (457939) on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:19AM (#22620668) Homepage
    The worst are people that cram around the boarding area and / or try to board when it's not their turn. Sometimes these people get waved through, but sometimes not. And if they don't get turned around to wait for their turn they end up blocking the people that could be getting seated in the back of the plane.

    I always thought it would be great to have sort of a "bad boarder" or detention area to corral people off to the side of the gate that tried boarding at the wrong time. Just a nice little waiting area that they direct you to stand in and wait. And then once the entire plane has boarded you and all your non-boarding in time friends can join. And then everyone could give them a nice Nelson-style "Hah hah" laugh as they walked bye.
  • by skrolle2 (844387) on Monday March 03, 2008 @07:13AM (#22621968)
    So far, I haven't seen any technological solutions to this? Why? Isn't this Slashdot? :)

    Something I'd like to see is boarding passes as devices. You check in, and you get a token, a gadget, which has a little battery, a little display, some simple flashing lights, and wifi connectivity to the airport system.

    So you need to get through security, and you're a bit late, and you have no idea who in front of you is more late than you, or if it's ok to skip the line. But if the airport has these boarding passes, you can build in a priority tracking system. Is your boarding pass blinking green? If so, skip the line to security. Is it not blinking? Fuck off, stand in line like everyone else. Big signs at security saying that you should let people through with blinking tokens.

    Ok, you didn't get a gate number at check-in, so you have to stand around looking at the monitors in the airport. You can't go anywhere else, because the gate you need to be at might be far away, so no dawdling. If the boarding passes are connected, they can be updated in real-time, make a little beep, and display your gate on itself.

    Also, passengers that are late or forgot their departure time and hold up the flight (graaoorrrgghh!!) could have their boarding pass remind them about where they should be. Make the pass beep and blink more, the more late the passenger is. No more relying on people listening to the speakers, which they don't.

    Finally, boarding. So, making people board in the right order is hard. With a little blinkenlights it'll be easier. Is your pass blinking green? Then go board. Is it red? Fuck off, wait until your turn. No more big groups of boarding (passengers on row 44 to 28, please board, bla bla bla), you can individually signal each passenger that he or she should board, making sure to fill the plane up from the rear.

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