The quickest way to board an airplane? Just use an algorithm

 

Forget "speedy boarding": airlines that instruct passengers to board short-haul jets in a seat sequence that begins 30F, 28F, 26F and ends 5C, 3C, 1C could save a fortune by cutting the time the aircraft spends on the ground.

Click HERE to view graphic (168k jpg)

A complex algorithm devised by an American astrophysicist has been shown to double the speed in which passengers board an aircraft.

Dr Jason Steffen, a scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, applied mathematical modelling to the problem of boarding a Boeing efficiently. His solution requires passengers to board from the back of the plane, by alternate rows, filling window seats on one side of the cabin first. The pattern is repeated for the other side of the cabin, then applied to middle, and then aisle, seats. In a test for an American TV science programme, the Steffen Method halved the time spent boarding using conventional systems.

Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, expressed interest in the concept: "We will always look at anything that would improve our 25-minute turnarounds or our No 1 punctuality," he said. At present the airline sells "priority boarding" at £5 a time to a maximum of 90 passengers per flight.

On airlines that use assigned seating, the standard means of boarding is to call passengers by block: row 21-30 in a narrow-bodied jet, followed by rows 11-20 and 1-10. But tests conducted in a mock-up of a section of a Boeing 757 showed this method took 414 seconds – almost seven minutes – and was the least efficient of those tested.

Dr Steffen told The Independent: "I was surprised that 'block boarding' did so badly. I was expecting it to be closer to the time of random boarding. I didn't account for seat interferences, assuming them to be relatively less important than aisle interferences."

Evidently the impediment to smooth boarding is other people – plus their awkward luggage, a result of financial penalties for checking in bags.

A more sophisticated variant, in which passengers are boarded strictly by row from the rear of the aircraft, was significantly quicker at 371 seconds. Yet an entirely random boarding pattern with no assigned seats, as practised by many budget airlines, scored much better at 284 seconds – almost one-third quicker than "full-service" carriers with pre-assigned seats.

The Steffen method enabled all passengers to be boarded and seated in just 216 seconds, a rate of three seconds per person. Applied to a typical 180-seat no-frills aircraft, this radical approach could slice nine minutes off the time each aircraft spends on the ground. Over a year, this could save two weeks – worth £1m – per plane.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor