How To Board A Plane Quicker Using Maths

Boarding a plane is like joining an assault course that demands you trample old people and bat small children out of the way you with your bare fists. Possibly. But perhaps not for much longer, because a Chinese mathematician claims to have found a far more efficient way to board an aeroplane.

Airlines usually opt for one of two systems: the much-feared free-for-all or the yawn-some assigned seating. Researcher Dr Tie-Qiao Tang, however, claims there's a third way:

"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 optimal speed, maximum speed and safe distance."

Essentially, what he's claiming here is that airlines could, in theory at least, assign seat numbers based on data about their customers -- their typical boarding speed, luggage they're carrying, that kind of thing. In fact, during simulations his technique was the most efficient of the three, beating allocated seating by a mile and leaving the free-for-all, unsurprisingly, in a coughing heap somewhere in the distance.

Putting the theory into practice, however, is a tougher nut to crack -- but not an impossible one. Airlines could easily work out how carry-on luggage correlates with boarding speed and just add an extra weigh-in to factor how it affects seat allocation, for instance, while walking speed could be guesstimated as a function of age. How well that would work though is another question entirely.

Add to the mix that it would mean that airlines would have to actively profile their customers -- something many people wouldn't be too happy with -- and it has its fair share of problems. But let's face it: it's gotta be better than the current state of things. [Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies via Science Network]

Image: StudioSmart/Shutterstock

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    Do it like one of those old races, start them at one end of the gate then make them run for their carry on at the other end and then towards the airplane.

    The fastest will board first, the slowest last.

      Considering the line between carry on and "that's so friggin huge, you should really be checking that" is getting significantly blurred, I couldn't agree more.

      Those carrying 14 suitcases and half a ton of other "carry on" would have no chance getting to the front of the line to hold everyone else up.

      Except it fails for people like me who want to be on the plane for the least amount of time possible.
      And I hate queuing!
      So even though I'll be at the gate on time, I'll always be one of the last to board.

        Better start training now big fella

    I'll never understand the scramble to get on a fucking plane. It's not the rate limiting step for departure in most cases and there's more leg room and more Wi-Fi in the terminal. Let the plebs battle it out for their already assigned seats and then just stroll in at the end.

      Couldn't agree more! Only issue is if you're sitting at an emergency exit, and cant stow carry-on under the seat. All the plebs chock up the overhead bins near you by the time you board.
      Also, I always find that people who have an aisle seat almost are ALWAYS the first to board. So much ridiculousness! I always call them 'the stupids'.

      Love you're calling everyone plebs... yet your still a pleb who obviously flies in economy like the rest of us.

    Who boards early? Just sit in the airport bar and wait for them to call your name!

      Have you been to changi?

      There are no boarding calls at that airport at all, so good luck with your strategy!

    They covered this in the episode of the Mythbusters. A repeat episode of it was on two nights ago.

      Was about to mention that.

        Same, I like one of the tests they ran was a free-for-all which was actually the quickest way of getting them to board the plane but it was the least favoured out of the other 2 methods they tried. Some interesting stuff.

    I've been working on this for some time as well, and I've come up with this:


    How about boarding numbers from the rear to the front and do it that way. EasyJet has this sytem where they line you up in 6 lines according to seat nr. Then they board them from 2 ends to meet in the middle. It works.. sort of..

    Just board window seats first, then middle, then aisle. Hey presto.

    Best way is to get everyone to line up in reverse order and put them on the plan that way. Every time I have a delayed flight and they do this then boarding is about 3 times quicker.

    Boarding doesn't seem that bad to me. It's getting off that sucks. Everyone up the front piling up, struggling to get out their bags from the overhead locker, slowing everyone behind them who in turn have to wait to be able to get their bags, etc. They should just get one row at a time to get up and get off, eg everyone in the left aisle seat, then the right aisle seat, etc.

    Getting on is usually not too much of an issue.. it's the getting off part that I always hate. When you're getting on, regardless of the efficiency, people are getting on 1 or 2 people at a time.. when you're getting off, everyone stands up at the same time.. everyone is already on the plane..

    In China however, both getting on and off is A LOT quicker for domestic flights... people are already walking down the aisles while the plane is still taxiing..

    Ban the overhead compartment.

    If people can only bring on TRUE carry on ie a small bag that can only fit under the seat, all these problems go away. No one is clogging up the isles to stow a surfboard overhead. No one is clogging up the exits when the plane lands. You go to your seat and sit down, and put your small bag under the seat. When the plane lands, people have their bag on their laps, stand up, and walk off the plane. The carry on baggage limit is a joke.

    Or here's a thought, three waves: Window seaters go in first, followed by the middle seats, followed by the Aisles. No?

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