Reducing Boarding Time by 50%

“Waiting is frustrating, demoralizing, agonizing, aggravating, annoying, time consuming and incredibly expensive.”

As a regular flier , I find the process of boarding/deplaning slow and tedious.It always seems to take longer than the time allotted, and often leads to fraying of nerves and delays to take-off.

So why don’t airlines proactively manage the queues by pre-sorting them by row and position? Do legacy carriers have it right by boarding back to front? Do the likes of Southwest, Ryanair and easyJet have it right by having unassigned seating? Is the ‘best’ solution different based on the load factor and the demographic makeup of the passengers?

One man, Jason Steffen, tried to address this issue scientifically using Monte Carlo simulation. He considered a number of different methods: Back to Front boarding, Block boarding, Random Boarding, Boarding with two doors etc.

Interestingly for the legacy carriers, he found that boarding at random was quicker than boarding in blocks. However, his ‘optimal’ solution was somewhat different(and complicated). He found the most efficient method was:

  1. Board passengers with children and wheelchairs first.
  2. Next, board window seats on one side and then the other.
  3. Following on from this board middleseat passengers with odd row numbers, then middleseat passengers with even numbers.
  4. Finally board aisle passengers with odd and then even row numbers.

While I suspect the headline figure of 50% reduction in boarding time is over-estimated, any small improvement that could increase on-time performance and potentially increase customer satisfaction could translate to increase profitability. Therefore, it seems logical that in their ruthless pursuit of operational efficiency, airlines would be wise to look at any and all boarding/deplaning options.

The video below shows a mock-up simulation of his method.