Airlines have tried to improve the boarding process for years, even hiring mathematicians to quantify the procedure. There have been contests and grad school projects but in the end, we still need about 25 minutes to board most domestic mainline flights, even longer for international. Obviously this varies based on factors such as capacity, aircraft size, and number of carry-on bags but is there really a best way to make boarding more efficient?
The answer is yes, more efficient is terms of time but the price is that passengers find these processes less pleasing. Okay, so is there a way to balance efficiency with passenger acceptance? That’s where MythBusters comes in. They created a simulation of the inside of a single aisle mainline legacy aircraft with 173 seats. No doubt, some elites will be disappointed to see only three rows of first class but overall, kudos to MythBusters for a pretty good sim that includes children, difficult passengers, slowing down the boarding by going to the lav, etc.
Naming their airline Mythbust Air, the creative geniuses tried a number of airline boarding options, each time asking the ‘passengers’ to rate the process. The combination of most efficient along with passenger input resulted in the optimum selections. The folks from the Discovery Channel were kind to include this episode on YouTube. I won’t give away the results but it did trim about 10 minutes off the boarding process.
So, if the passengers prefer this boarding method and the airlines can turn around their aircraft faster, why aren’t the carriers adopting this? Uh, because they left out a few boarding elements. For example, I did not see any supersized carry-ons based on their video. Sometimes these honkers have to be taken off by flight attendants because they need to be gate checked. Of course the flight attendants then have to go against the grain of the boarding traffic with these oversized bags.
Okay, one more hint… Their method is quite efficient but MythBusters failed to consider an important element of the airline boarding process. Except for a handful of passengers sitting in what they call Business Class (actually domestic First), they completely ignored those with elite status who are sitting in economy class. Hmm, does that mean elites are the reason airlines need to add ten minutes to the boarding process?
Despite the limitations, Adam and Jamie at MythBusters earned Job Well Done certs (Deltaspeak, as you may know). While others have proven there are faster ways to board an aircraft, these guys included another important element. Consider the passengers in the equation and together we can come up with something that all of us can live with.
What do you think?