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.

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
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
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

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

    £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn