As a person who travels for a living, this was of great interest: What’s Up With That: Boarding Airplanes Takes Forever. Boy howdy, does it ever. Excerpt:
I was at the airport last week, and all I wanted to do was sit down, strap in, and lift off. Of course I couldn’t, because there were a bunch of people standing in my way. As the line crept along, I scanned ahead for malingerers, but everyone seemed sufficiently ready to board. I couldn’t help but wonder, is there a more efficient way for airlines to put get our butts into our seats, and into the air?
Millions of other people probably have pondered this question. At least one wrote a computer program to find the answer. Jason Steffen is an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, and several years ago he modeled different airline boarding methods to see what made them so slow. He also figured out how airlines could get us on board much faster.
Unfortunately the airlines aren’t really listening.
The problem is this: It’s not possible to come up with a perfect system for boarding an airplane or, for that matter, any other operation that involves people – unless you have perfect people. Having boarded a few hundred airplanes over the last ten years or so as an independent consultant, I can observe with some experience that there is always – always – at least one knucklehead who holds up the line because:
- They brought aboard an enormous dog-coffin “carry-on” that they can’t manage to cram into the overhead bin.
- Airline seats are an intimidating and mysterious thing, and they have to stand in the aisle for an extended time examining their seat before getting in.
- The overhead bin above their seat is full, so they proceed to the back of the plane, stuff their bag in the last bin at the back, then have to swim against the current all the way back to their row.
- A variation on this is the knucklehead who stuffs their bag in a bin in First Class, then has to come back forward from Economy and retrieve it when the flight attendant tells them they can’t use that space.
- Last but not least, the idiot who can’t stop talking on the phone long enough to sit down and strap in.
Perhaps, instead of looking for more efficient ways to board aircraft, science should look for a cure for nitwittery?