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Why Boarding Airplanes Takes Forever

What s Up With That Boarding Airplanes Takes Forever WIRED


In his model, Steffen started with the assumption that people would automatically move ahead until they ran into the person in front of them, or reached their row. Gaps closed fast, but the line moved slowly, as simulated passengers waited for space to load their gear. He says that even if the first people in line were seated in the last two rows of the plane, only a few would be able to put their luggage away at a time. Everybody else would wait. “All you have done is move the line from outside to inside the airplane,” Steffen told WIRED. “But the line doesn’t move any faster.” In fact, it turns out that the boarding time is almost exactly the same as boarding from the front to the back.

Steffen figured people would need to be manipulated in order to leave buffers between themselves and the people blocking their seats. So he started experimenting with rearranging the line by seat number. He ran his simulation ran over and over, and each time it switched the boarding order of two random passengers: If the plane boarded faster, it kept the switch. If the plane boarded more slowly, it switched them back. Then, the program ran again, switching another random pair. And again. And again. Each time, it moved closer to the optimal boarding order.

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