Mathematicians develop a new 'third way' to improve airplane boarding

An airliner lands at sunset

Lead researcher Dr Tie-Qiao Tang said while modelling had previously been done on factors such as luggage congestion, routing, and takeoff runway scheduling, his study was the first to look at boarding.

He said the area could help an industry under constant pressure to increase efficiency.

"Air passenger transportation in China has increased to 200 million in 2010 from less than 10 million in 1950. However, the increase of the supply of is much slower than that of its demand. Thus, in practice, certain conflicts between supply and demand often occur, leading to airline congestions, passenger- congestions and mixed traffic problems," Dr Tang said.

He said researchers created models using pedestrian flow theory that compared three styles of boarding: random boarding; the current boarding system of assigned seating; and the new way that took into account passengers' individual properties, such as maximum speed and luggage.

"Each passenger has their own individual properties. For example, each passenger's luggage has a different attribution and thus has different influences on boarding behaviour; the time that the passenger's ticket is checked at the gate is different; the time that the passenger deals with his or her carried luggage is different; seat conflicts have different effects on the passenger. Each passenger has a different , maximum speed and safe distance."

Results showed random boarding was the most inefficient, with queue-jumping, aisle congestions and jams before the gate as well as between the gate desk and plane.

Boarding by assigned seating was better, but still inefficient, as only passengers in the front of the queue could board at their '' and seat conflicts occurred.

However, the new third way – with seat numbers assigned based on the passenger's optimal speed, the attributions of their carried luggage and tickets checked automatically using at the gate so as to avoid slowdowns in motion – was proven optimal, with no , jams, overtaking, queue jumping, seat conflict or wasted time.

While Dr Tang said no airline had yet agreed to put the theory into practice, he is open to collaborations to make the 'third way' a travel reality.

'An aircraft boarding model accounting for ' individual properties' by Tie-Qiao Tang, Yong-Hong Wu, Hai-Jun Huang and Lou Caccetta was published in Transport Research Part C.

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Nov 13, 2012
Quite interesting, however
"with seat numbers assigned based on the passenger's optimal speed, the attributions of their carried luggage".

The tests where in other words not considering people traveling in groups, i.e. family with children, business associates, friends, etc, and appear to place such people at seatings separate from each other.

But the idea might still somewhat work, but need to be modified to account for people who are traveling together with others, not just their luggage.

Nov 13, 2012
How on earth would you know that "Joe Swanson" is fat and slow, wheras "Peggy Sue " is fast and nimble? Should someone check the passengers and note this on their tickets? And what about hand-luggage? Some one picks up a bottle of whisky in the tax-free shop.. How would the system know that this passenger is no longer a "little baggage" but rather a "a lot of baggage" passenger?

I don't see how you could implement this system in real life.

Nov 13, 2012
This "study" totally ignores boarding the "fourth way", climbing through the windows.

Nov 13, 2012
how about a freight/people container based system, instead of people waiting in the boarding room, you have them seated in a larger container before the airplane lands , then you move and click the passenger and feightcontainer under the plane backbone, this could easily shave 1 hour off the boarding and a half hour for unloading clearance, do this on short distance planes (i.e cityhoppers, 2-3 hours flight) where the whole boarding process eats up a relative large amount of the passengers flight time and
1) you provide shorter A to B overall time to the passenger
2) at say 5 flights a day, you save 7 hours turnaround time, so you actually could do 7 or 8 flights a day with the same plane!

This all would require a major overhaul of planes and infrastructure thats why i propose it for small cityhoppers instead of an airbus.

Nov 13, 2012
All planes have front and back doors, why are most airports designed to only use one door? just tell the people with seats at the back to walk down and use the stairway at the back. First use common sense, then call mathematicians.

Nov 14, 2012
Husky: great idea!!!

Have everyone lie down in bunks, sedate them and you could fit a lot more people in as well. You would save weight and turn around time since you wouldn't be loading drinks/snacks.

Nov 14, 2012

Not a bad idea except for the fact that the large container would necessitate a large opening in the aircraft. This would weaken the structural integrity of the plane, and fixing it would require more material. Which in turn would make it heavier... leading to higher fuel costs.

Nov 18, 2012
javjav: Jetblue does that when possible. Many times I've had to board from the back on their planes. It goes faster but not as fast as you'd think, because people still need to que through the gate agent with the ticket in single file. You right that the big problem is in most airports you can't because they only have one door.

Nov 18, 2012
The vast majority of passengers are repeat customers and none have a right to privacy quickly by computer surveillance the data on boarding efficiency can be databased. The first timers can easily be observed and estimated boarding efficiency numbers computer assigned. Where doubt exists efficiency numbers are optimally estimated lower. The process and math are not difficult. A little customer training works also like simply requesting folks to help each other and be friendly.

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