* Not all of first class boards early, many flyers stay in the lounge till later and then hold up the aisle getting their bag into the overhead
* Passengers board together regardless of boarding order. Friends flying with an elite member can board early and not with their group.
* When the overhead is full passengers must swim upstream to bring their bag to be checked.
* Although there are plenty of bathrooms near the gate, many passengers insist on using the lav the minute they board. They again end up swimming upstream holding up the queue
* Seat stealing - whether intentional or not, some passengers help themselves to a roomier exit row seat (or on one occasion I've seen them in first class) hoping no one shows up to take that seat. Once the passenger with that seat arrives, the original passenger has to get their belongings, perhaps clear the overhead and again possibly fight their way against people boarding.
Southwest's self serve seating helps in some regards, but this style of boarding will never be used my the major carriers - at least in the U.S.
On a recent flight using Azul (Brazil's "Jet Blue", same owner), people were boarded via the front and back at the same time. First time I had seen that, though not sure if it was any quicker. Perceptions of quickness are often dependent on where you are sitting.
This would also allow you to quickly deplane, but have the next group of passengers already seated, ready to slide into the plane.
The boarding problem is human, and also spacial. And you can't really get rid of the humans, but you could change the space.
Freight transport has been containerized, how can we do it to passenger transport?
[#] "Never" is a long time. Certainly "not soon"
We have these automated warehouses and factory floors with robotic carts that can precisely navigate, pickup and deliver loads without a lot of infrastructure needed, that's kinda where I'm coming from.
I'm thinking the solution would have to work with the existing sized doorways for it to be adopted.
Realistically, there's lots of ways to handle the boarding/alighting process better, but we're talking massive extra expense in new planes and airport modifications in order to shave ten or fifteen minutes off the turnaround time. Probably not even that much, since passenger loading and unloading generally isn't the rate-limiting step.
Everybody has opinions on how airline travel can be improved, because airline travel provides people with many hours of downtime with nothing better to do than to think about how their experience could be improved. (This is also the reason there are so many stand-up comedy bits about airline travel.) It's probably much more profitable to think up ways to improve processes which most people don't see regularly, like... I dunno, concrete pouring or tree felling or fiberglass bending or... other things which don't spring immediately into my mind because I can't see them out the window thus demonstrating how obscure they are.
A good first step would be to get back to having the a majority travelers check their luggage. A lot of the delay is by everyone bringing overflowing carry on luggage when the planes don't have room for every one do so.
The machinery to get the seats in/out will be heavy, mechanically complex. This eats into revenue. Might not even work with existing airplanes.
You'd need to have machinery in the boarding lounge - at every airport the plane visits.
You don't really need this everywhere - people can just get on/off in the legacy mode - but when you visit an airport that lacks the gear you're just hauling dead weight around.
Okay, so we design a plane from scratch, and retrofit the terminals in the US ... but then you've got a plane that can only be used in the US. And one that can't be resold to Elbonia Airways when Northwestern is done using it.
Then once the plane starts taxi-ing the overhead bins unlock and people can put away their belongings (since you have to wait at least ten+ minutes to taxi and take-off it seems like this wouldn't cause a slowdown.)
Plus you'd get an extra efficiency because the person in the aisle can load the bags for everyone in his row.
Should I patent this ... :-/
What happens when a whole plane full of people try to move into the aisle while the aircraft is moving? FAA usually doesn't care for that one bit.
Everyone schlepping all their crap through security and on to the plane is 90% of the problem.
Also, sitting down with a rolling suitcase on one's lap isn't really practical either.
* Some bags are too heavy / dirty (wheels on rollers accrue a lot of dirt) to keep in lap.
* These days because of the fees inevitably people carry too much luggage on board and have to check some of it after the bins fill up. Impossible to check luggage while plane is taxi'ing (unless there is some door to the cargo hold somewhere?).
of course, that only helps them....
I was actually quite surprised by the simulation - that queueing people into odd-even queues make for faster boarding.
Caveat: the code I shared on github is actually quite terrible. Ignore the code, look at the pretty charts
Increases in prices of checked baggage means many flights have more people carrying bags on, due to limited overhead space, there is more incentive to board as early as possible. If you don't have a carry-on that needs to go in the overhead bins, the incentive to board on-time or early is lower.
Southwest airlines, mentioned here quite a bit, incentives customers to board early (if you want a good seat, you need to get on early to choose it) and to check in early (they can better gauge % checked-in because you are rewarded for confirming with the airline 24 hours in advance). Their policy to allow free checked bags is a nice courtesy but it also means more customer check bags, reducing the time to store things in the overhead which leads to less time at the gate. Free bags is a financial play, just not in terms of additional revenue but as cost savings.
Also airlines tend to board from front and back simultaneously, which isn't always an optimization as people join the shortest queue regardless of where their seat is.
Every method of boarding will require training the flight crew, ground crews at the airport. A non-trivial expense to change over from A to B. And then back.
Departure times are measured down to the minute. Miss your time and much activity downstream is affected - pax connections, gate use at destination airport, flights downstream.
And so on. I'm sure that they do use A/B testing or something like that ... but they do a whole lot of simulatin' first.
Reference this Hipmunk visualization:
Banning carry-on luggage that doesn't fit under the seat would be a great place to start.
There was a research paper on that few months ago, and it was on HN. Does anyone remember details?
Much of the congestion is caused by people stowing their bags overhead further down the plane than their seat, then having to reverse against traffic for X rows to sit down. Also there is a large fixed time cost once the overhead bins fill up and X passengers are forced to check their bags; they have to haul them all the way to the front against traffic.
What if a system was installed at the security checkpoint that recorded whether a passenger were boarding with a suitcase, and then assigned them a bin overhead. The bins would have small LED screens that displayed the passenger's name or seat number. An algorithm would match the bins to the nearest seats, and reduce or possibly eliminate downstream luggage-stowing. It would also be able to tell passengers that they were too late, the bins were full, and they would have to check their bags.
* some bags are small or irregular, can fit 2 in a bin (measure bag during X-ray?)
* initially people won't understand the system leading to chaos
Also, people are stupid and can't self-sort.
I must admit, Southwest's boarding always feels like the absolute easiest. You just get in line by number and sit wherever you want.
announcement: This is NOT a boarding announcement, please remain seated.
people: 80% of the people in the gate area stood up.
announcement: This is NOT a boarding announcement. When we do board, please pick up a sack lunch from the cart near the ramp.
people: 50% started forming a line near the ramp. 30% remained standing.
announcement: Please remain seated. We will start boarding in about 15 minutes. As you board the plane, please take a sack lunch from the cart near the door. Thank you.
people: Most looked around uncertainly and slowly sat down.
Person 1 near me: What was that about a lunch?
Person 2: I don't know. I think they may serve you a lunch, depending on where your destination is.
Me: Envisioning a scenario where the attendent gives you a lunch if you are flying to Des Moines, but No Lunch for You! if you are continuing on to Los Angeles...
in back-to-front, a line forms as you are waiting for people to store their bag. one person can take up [block] 3 rows of seats while he is fiddling with putting his bag overhead.
in random seating, people all over the plane are storing bags at the same time, instead of just 1 or 2 people.
The most aisle time I've taken on any flight might be 10 seconds, though most of the time it's zero since I prefer to store my carry-on below the seat when I can.
From the simulation it looks like the bottleneck forms because each person takes a minute to put their bag away. So if you have 1 person in the last isle putting their bag away they are basically blocking the entire plane.
With random you get random people who can access the overhead compartments all over the plane which helps increase the number of people simultaneously putting bags away.
The people in the aisle are units of work that need executing. In back to front, only the unit that is right at the front can actually be completed since only she is blocking the people behind her, who are in turn blocking the people behind them.
In a random setup, say the first person goes right to the back of the plane, there's every likelihood that the person behind her is not sitting next to her, which means that 2nd person can immediately reach his seat while she does the same..
Multiply this a good few times, and you'll see that a number of people proportional to the total number of passengers will always be getting seated at one time instead of just 1 or 2..
Then again I avoid airports these days because of the TSA.
That is, if there are 25 rows on the plane, load rows 25, 20, 15, 10, and 5 at once in that order, and in the second wave load 24, 19, 14, 9, 4, etc. That way, the people sitting in row 25 will have a 4 row buffer between them and the next passengers to wait while they get seated and aren't blocking the next group (in row 20) from being seated.
Does that seem reasonable?
I'd rather wait as long as possible and avoid being sat on the plane.
This probably ruins carefully planned boarding procedures. C'est la vie. But as it stands, the trouble with boarding is that there are plenty of people like me.