Now boarding - the next big efficency for airlines?

Bitterwallet - 7 million fly Ryanair in July 2010Boarding planes is dull, but boarding big planes takes an eternity - you can sometimes be sat in your seat for an hour before the plane moves off from the gate. That said, airlines operating long flights with big planes aren't in so much of a rush - crews must be rested and changed, and cleaning, catering and refuelling is a massive effort that takes time. Then there's budget flights that hop between countries and can be turned round very quickly; their operators are always looking for efficiencies when preparing aircraft for flight.

So whether it's in the interests of passenger comfort or profitability, will be an airline to take up the advice of Doctor Jason Steffen? More to the point, why should they listen to the opinions of an astrophysicist? Well, while waiting to board a flight in 2008, the good doctor started considering how airlines might board planes more efficiently. After all, most airlines will board from the back of the plane to the front, but that method still means lots of people vying for a limited amount of space in the cabin at the same time.

Others attempting to solve this problem had suggested boarding window seats first, but Dr Steffen suggested boarding in alternate rows, window seats first, from the rear forward, then filling the middle and aisle seats in the same way. The theory was then put to the test with volunteers and a 757 - and Steffen's suggestion meant the plane was boarded nearly twice as quickly as block boarding, and took three quarters of the time that random boarding took.

With the likes of easyJet and Ryanair turning around flights within 30 minutes of reaching the gate, every minute counts. Applying the principle to an airbus could mean closing times for gates could be later, and less times waiting to the departure lounge. Will any airlines look to improve the efficiencies of their passengers next?



  • Dick
    If they want people to board quickly, then they should have hand luggage storage under the seats only, not overhead. That way, there is limited but guaranteed space for luggage for each passenger, so no looking for places to put your bags if you are one of the last to board, no old ladies trying to get their bags up to the lockers. It would be swift to get in and get your bag under the seat, so no blocking the aisles, which holds up other passengers getting to their seats.
  • Tim
    "most airlines will board from the back of the plane to the front" Apart from budget and charter, most fill front to back giving first priority to those who've paid the most for their tickets. Cattle class is always last, at the back having to wait whilst people mess about in the isles and getting in their seats, and struggling to find overhead space as everyone else has more carry on than they should and nick your bins. Likewise leaving the plane goes front to back, so cattle class again wait the longest.
  • Dick
    I think Ryanair should bring in a new service, £5 to punch another passenger, and another £5 not to be punched. So for a tenner per flight, you could punch another person on the flight, so long as they have not paid the £5 anti-punch fee and they would not be allowed to punch you back, even if they had paid the £5 puch fee.
  • kv
    boarding systems only work when everyone has a designated seat. it will never work for ryanair because only idiots pay extra for a designated seat.
  • thefunboi
    Im surprised Ryanair havent yet made people order themselves into numerical order whilst awaiting the arrival of the plane. Then, number 1 sits in seat number 1, (incidentally the last seat at the back of the plane, and so on, so first on board walks right to the back out of everybodys way. Then people work their way back, so the last person to board, sits in the nearest seat to the front door. Then, on arrival at your destination, they open the back doors, first on, first off, and away you go. Good times. Super fast, and you get to sit with or beside, or in the seat beside or behind, the people you booked with. Happy times. I might email the Sky Marshall and tell him for a free fare (excluding taxes and charges of course) Ill let him have that one.
  • thefunboi
    Oh, kv, boarding systems with allocated seating are shite. What if Im down the back, you and your 80 year old mother are up the front, and while she's busy having a seizure putting her bag in the overhead locker, while your fannying about arguing over if 3a is a window or fucking aisle, me and the rest of the plane cant get past either of you because we're stucke behind you. Then, by the time you get your ipad out of your bag, shes struggling to find her fucking glasses and a 3 month old edition of Readers Digest, and your still blocking the aisle. Now we've missed our take off slot and the pilot's right pissed off. All because you want allocated seats.
  • Air A.
    Until you get handling agents (the ones who do the boarding etc when airlines aren't using their own staff, such as Servisair) that can count then it doesn't matter what system you employ, it'll still take an age. They tend, however, to be rather dim therefore boarding any aircraft containing more than 2 seats causes untold confusion and delay. The muppets at our airport find it hard enough to get the correct passengers & baggage on the correct planes, never mind doing it in a particular order. Might work at LHR with trained BA staff and business class passengers, but imagine the carnage in the departure hall at Liverpool for the EZY to Malaga.

What do you think?

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