The Physics Of Boarding A Plane

What if one of the fastest ways to board a plane is to  just randomly let people line up and get on? No more boarding by rows or zones or anything like that.

According to a recent study by physicist Jason Steffen, the conventional back-to-front method of boarding is inefficient. It clumps passengers together and slows things down.

He figured that the fastest way to board is to let passengers on 10 at a time, with one passenger for every other row. But since passengers traveling together might object to boarding separately, he proposed a modified version that would board groups of passengers assigned to three adjacent seats of every other row.

He also concluded that random boarding is nearly as fast. Just let people get on when they get on, and the odds are they’ll be spaced out enough not to get in each other’s way as they jockey their luggage and ease into their seats.


But how to prevent random boarding from turning into the old Southwest cattle call? Passengers with assigned seats don’t have to elbow each other out of the way for a seat, but they can get pretty anxious about overhead space for their luggage.

Maybe the answer is to assign boarding order independent of seating. It could be assigned in order of check-in, so that traveling companions checking in together would be in the same or consecutive boarding groups.

Just a thought.


One thought on “The Physics Of Boarding A Plane

  1. dudelookslikeachimp

    Its also the bet way to avoid airline terrorists. Confidential government studies already point out that the security lines at airports create a much fatter, easier target. Typically several hundred people are waiting in multiple parallel lines at larger airports.
    These studies show that the best and cheapest security measures is to board and deliver passengers to destinations as quickly as possible — combined with remote controlled takeoff and landing. Pilots can perform emergency measures BUT any such procedure also automatically assigns an interceptors to the flight. A domestic use for all those military dollars.
    Thanks to the Iranian Government for their security studies. But that is not the American way. There isn’t big rake off for private companies or intrusions into ladies clothes.


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