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How to Speed up the Boarding Process via Physics, Shrek

October 26, 2009 | Posted in: Ask Rick,Passengers,Travel Tips

The fastest way to board an airplane? Well it helps if you’re an elite miles member – or have small children – or if you pay for the privilege.

And as we told you earlier, Virgin America is now testing a plan that allows those without carryons to board first.

But – maybe Science could come up with a better boarding method – so we contacted Dr. Jason Steffen – a physicist with Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics. A few years back, he noticed how slow the boarding process was. So, he went to work, studying the problem and came up with more “efficient” models.

Keep reading, otherwise you’ll never guess what he came up with…or what Shrek has to do with this…

According to Dr. Steffen, one of the most efficient methods for boarding a plane is – randomly. Yes, boarding in purely random order.

He explains:

“To make a boarding process efficient you need to spread the passengers who are stowing luggage and preparing to sit down all along the length of the aircraft. The airplane should fill evenly throughout the cabin. So, if there is a large section of passengers who are all seated while the remainder of the airplane is still filling, that part of the aisle is not being used and the efficiency of the boarding process suffers. The reason random boarding works well is that it accomplishes the goal of filling the aircraft evenly along its length.” -Dr. Jason Steffen, 10-26-09

So how would random work? Well, it kind of reminds me of the donkey in Shrek who kept saying, “Oh, pick me! Me, me!” Hey, could be worth a try…

2 Responses to “How to Speed up the Boarding Process via Physics, Shrek”

  1. david says:

    So here’s how it could work:

    “Attention passengers of flight 666, we will be boarding alphabetically. Please line up if your last name begins with A, B, or C. Once lined up, you will be boarding 15 at a time. Thank you.”

  2. Daniel says:

    One problem with that, david: people with A would be boarding every flight first…you’d have more passenger complaints than any other way.

    Despite whatever they’re saying, it’s still better to board windows first so you don’t have people climbing over each other. Here’s what I’d do:
    1) Odd rows, window seats
    2) Even rows, window seats
    3) Odd rows, middle seats
    4) Even rows, middle seats
    5) Odd rows, aisle seats
    6) Even rows, aisle seats
    Now the aisle is evenly distributed at all points AND you don’t have climbing over people

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