Fermilab scientist Jason Steffen recently presented a creative and simple solution to a problem that affects hundreds of millions of people per year: inefficient airplane boarding procedures. Typically, airlines board in several zones, from back to front, one zone at a time. Though it may appear logical, this method is full of disorganization. Passengers in a given zone are all jockeying for elbow room and overhead bin space in the same confined area. The result is a cramped and rushed free-for-all. Even those who find their seats quickly often have to get up and back into the aisle to allow other passengers to pass through to their seats.
Steffen first demonstrates that random boarding is more efficient than the current system. The bottlenecks of the zone system are greatly diminished when the full plane is boarded at once.
Steffen goes on to explain an even more effective option. First, alternating rows of window-seat passengers on one side of the plane board (i.e., rows 2, 4, 6, etc.). Next, the other side of the plane begins to board in the same fashion. After that, the first side’s middle-seat passengers board (still only the alternating, even-numbered rows). Then, the other side’s middle seats board, followed by the aisle seats on both sides. The process repeats with the odd-numbered rows on both sides.
The main advantage is that passengers are not competing for room. Each has space to load belongings into the bins and find a seat. Additionally, no one already seated has to get up to allow another person to take his or her seat. Steffan states that the usual accommodations for families with small children and other passengers requiring more care can be easily integrated into his system.
At this time, no airline has altered its boarding procedure to fit Steffen’s model, but you can check out this video: