5 thoughts on “The science of airplane boarding

  1. The linked article doesn’t discuss people travelling together, nor those with kids or small children. They seem to have causally disregarded human nature.

    The airlines aren’t looking for optimal boarding algorithms, they are looking for ways to get a herd of humans to cooperate well enough to get it together fast enough to taxi out of the gate in time. Hence the various boarding tactics.

    In other words, particle physics be damned, we’re dealing with humans!

  2. It’s the human-nature equivalent of the spherical cow. We don’t know how to account for the exact shape of the thing, so let’s assume it’s a perfect sphere. It’s an okay starting point. Likewise, the boarding algorithm is a place to start. But it would be interesting to see if the same relative efficiencies of the different boarding methods held in a real airplane boarding scenario.

  3. Pfft, hand waving won’t get you anywhere! I’m going to assume the theoretician doesn’t actually interact with real people in groups. It’s a place to start ;)

    Aside from that, it would be a complicated test to run. You’d have to do each method multiple times in multiple cities, during off peak and peak times, different passenger demographics, etc. etc. just to start to get a feel for how people are going to react to the different methods.

    I believe the methods would have a hard time accounting for small groups of two or more people that want to sit with or near each other. Their primary focus will be maintaining distance and locations, not synchronized baggage handling.

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