05 September 2011

Is Airline Boarding Rocket Science?

I have written before about Jason Steffen's attempts to get rationality into airline boarding. Much to be applauded.

The Economist published an article on how his theories have progressed.

However I believe that in the real world - there are different ways to address this.

Randomized allocation of boarding groups is one simple way (as AA is doing now). Southwest's funnel method - feeds traffic into the jetway fast. Ryanair's staged boarding - seems to work the fastest from my observation.

The basic issue remains that the hydraulics of the flow into an airline cabin will never become efficient unless there is a way to address the basic human interaction and the physical size of the passengers. For example domestic Mexico and intra Asian flights with less portly Americans can actually process faster because smaller nimbler people can share the same physical space.

End of the day. Random wins. But take away a major component such as TRUE limits on bags on board as exists in Europe and boarding works way better. Perhaps Spirit has it right for charging for overhead bin usage.



Anonymous said...

American's is NOT random, it's pseudo-random.

Well-traveled people (elites) are first, and the remaining people are self-selecting themselves by check-in time.

I am willing to bet that if AA went to truly randomized, results would be different.

Professor Sabena said...

Correct - It is not fully randomized.

Another comment could be that the current bin battle is getting worse particularly in the USA because the size of the aircraft does not support the baggage bring brought on.

This cascades down to the reason why the Elites demand priority boarding. I believe that if the number of Elites was reduced to pure Elites - then that process would also address some of the issues of boarding. In Europe - where baggage in the overhead bins is regulated strictly by the airports not the airlines - this problem has largely been eliminated - on both LCC and conventional flights.