How to speed up airplane boarding by a factor of five


Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, came up with a boarding method that greatly speeds up the traditional back-to-front boarding method used by most airlines. But the airlines aren't interested.

The first person in line should be in the back row, window seat (on either side of the plane). The next person would be in a window seat, two rows up. The line should proceed this way, skipping a row between each window-seated passenger all the way to the front of the plane. It would repeat this on the other side, then start filling the window seats in the empty rows between those already filled. The pattern repeats for the middle seats on each side, then the aisles.

According to Steffen's calculations, his method boards at least five times faster than back-to-front (though this varies based on the size of the plane). And it didn't only work in the model. A few years ago, Steffen's method was tested on the web show This Vs. That, where it beat five other methods (the full episode is behind a paywall).

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Image: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr