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Experiment proves the fastest way to board a plane

A new scientific test has confirmed what most of us know already about flying - the way we board airplanes is far from efficient.

The results of an experiment by particle physicist Jason Steffen released last week confirm his theory, first formulated in 2008, that a specific boarding order of passengers could greatly reduce the amount of time standing on the tarmac and in the aisle while other passengers stow their luggage.

The so-called 'Steffen method' boards passengers in a unique way, beginning with window seats in alternate rows on one side of the plane, followed by window seats in alternate rows on the other side, followed by the same pattern for the window seats in the empty rows.

The same process would be used for the middle seats and the aisle seats, allowing all passengers to have the space they need to stow their luggage and take their seats.

Although the 2008 study was just a hypothesis, the test results released last week using 72 passengers show just how much time the Steffen method saves, boarding passengers in almost half the time of traditional 'block' boarding (completed in 3:36 instead of 6:54).

The study also suggested that random seat allocations, commonly used by low-cost airlines to save time, are indeed far faster than allocated seat boarding, but slower still than the Steffen method, at 4:44.

It remains to be seen whether any airlines will implement the Steffen method, which would require a precise boarding order difficult for airports to manage - although as Dr. Steffen believes it could save millions of dollars, they certainly have an incentive to try it.

Study: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969699708000239

Experiment: http://arxiv.org/abs/1108.5211