Now boarding - the next big efficency for airlines?
Boarding 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?