News Release

APS Tip Sheet: Trudging until take-off

Allowing slower airplane passengers to board first decreases total boarding time

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Physical Society

Boarding Airplanes

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Credit: Credit: APS Journals

December 27, 2019 - With packed flights during the holiday season, getting from jet bridge to plane seat seems to take forever. Some airlines have tried to speed up the process by boarding passengers from back-to-front or boarding those without overhead luggage first. However, these practices have been challenging to implement. Now, scientists from universities in Norway, Latvia, and Israel suggest letting slow passengers board first may actually decrease time before take off. Researcher Erland et al. wanted to know whether there was in fact an optimal boarding process, so used physics to they created a model to simulate passengers trying to reach their seats. They predicted the passengers' speed based on their line position, row designation, and aisle-clearing time. The model calculated the average boarding time for passenger groups by gauging how long it would take each group to clear the plane's aisles. Results showed that boarding slow passengers first is up to 28% faster. Boarding time remained faster regardless of the percentage of slow passengers and how fast they cleared the aisles. The findings could inform airline boarding policies.


Lorentzian-geometry-based analysis of airplane boarding policies highlights "slow passengers first" as better
Sveinung Erland, Jevgenijs Kaupužs, Vidar Frette, Rami Pugatch, and Eitan Bachmat

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