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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 12:50 AM
Original message
Wired News: Airlines Try Smarter Boarding
Airlines Try Smarter Boarding

By Dave Demerjian
May, 09, 2006

(snip)

For cash-strapped airlines, improving the boarding process has become more than a customer service issue. "An airplane only generates revenue when it is in the air," explains David Swierenga, a former Air Transport Association of America economist and president of aviation consulting company AeroEcon. Swierenga says that by speeding "turnaround," an industry term for the amount of time an aircraft spends on the ground between flights, airlines can keep their planes in the air longer.

"An airplane that spends an hour on the ground between flights might fly five trips a day," he explains. "Cut the turnaround time to 40 minutes, and maybe that same plane can complete six or seven flights a day." More flights mean more paying passengers, and ultimately, more revenue. Many factors contribute to turnaround time, including baggage handling, refueling and aircraft cleaning. But a 1998 Boeing study shows that passenger boarding plays a significant role.

(snip)

Professor Ren Villalobos and graduate student Menkes van den Briel began reviewing boarding systems used by other airlines. "The conventional wisdom was that boarding from back to front was most effective," says van den Briel. The engineers looked at an inside-out strategy that boards planes from window to aisle, and also examined a 2002 simulation study that claimed calling passengers individually by seat number was the fastest way to load an aircraft.

(snip)

Van den Briel then spent two days at Los Angeles International Airport, where America West was filming actual passengers as they boarded, positioning one camera on the Jetway and another inside the aircraft. He spent the next two weeks analyzing these tapes, clocking the times it took passengers to complete certain tasks. "You can't imagine how boring this was," he says, laughing. He and Villalobos used this passenger data to build a computer-simulation model that validated the results of their analytical work. "The analytical model gave us the information we needed to design a new system," Villalobos explains, "but we needed a simulation that would allow us to test our method against others."

Villalobos and van den Briel presented America West with a boarding approach called the reverse pyramid that calls for simultaneously loading an aircraft from back to front and outside in. Window and middle passengers near the back of the plane board first; those with aisle seats near the front are called last. "Our research showed that this method created the fewest incidents of interference between passengers," Villalobos explains, "and was therefore the fastest.".. Other carriers appear to have taken note. Last July, AirTran Airways launched a boarding system that the airline's Judy Graham-Weaver refers to as a rotating zone system. AirTran first seats the back five rows of the plane, then the front five, and continues rotating back-front-back until boarding is complete. Graham-Weaver says that this system is one reason AirTran enjoys turnaround times in the 20- to 30-minute range.

(snip)

Van den Briel says that while Southwest's open seating might seem like an invitation for chaos, it actually illustrates a tendency among passengers to self-organize when left to their own devices. "Passengers who are free to sit anywhere usually do a good job staying out of each other's way," he explains. "Without having studied it in detail, I would imagine that an open boarding model is faster than assigned seating."

(snip)


http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70689-0.html?tw=...
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AndyTiedye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:05 AM
Response to Original message
1. Some Airlines Do The Opposite
They assign seats near the front to the most frequent fliers, and let them board first.
The least-frequent fliers board last, and tend to get stuffed into middle seats in the back.
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pitohui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:31 AM
Response to Reply #1
7. and that's as it should be
i'm eternally amazed at naive flyers who think southwest a good deal, they are more expensive and treat their frequent flyers like buttwipe

as a frequent flyer i expect to be placed either in first class or in the premium coach seats at the front of the plane

i expect to be boarded first, so if the overhead bin fills up, the customer who only flies the airline twice in a decade can check his damn bag and have his damn bag lost, it isn't fair to me as a regular customer to separate me from my belongings

also i expect the early boarding to give me time to enjoy the pre-boarding cocktail, admittedly this only happens when the first class upgrade comes thru -- but that's way often on continental and northwest

southwest is a cattle call and you pay more for the privilege at least from my airport!
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wakeme2008 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 03:49 AM
Response to Reply #7
19. this Freq Flyer LOVE SWA... Their FF club is the best
and I like the speed they board.

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Divernan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 04:22 AM
Response to Reply #7
21. I'm Continental frequent flyer too - those 1st class upgrades are nice
but getting fewer and farther in between. However, the main reasons I stick w/ Continental are that I get to board early and am thus assured of finding an overhead space for my (correctly sized)carryon; I am guaranteed an aisle seat near the front of the plane, giving me the necessary extra time to quickly get off and make my connecting flights; and if a flight is cancelled or gets in late, Continental automatically books me on the next available flight. It really irritates me when despite the announcement that the flight is full, so would everyone put their coats and small items under the seat in front of them, you see so many people take up overhead space with coats & small bags. Then other passengers are squeezing back and forth in the aisles, looking for space. Some flight attendants are really helpful and keep the process moving; others aren't.

If I'm taking one leg of my flight on a small plane with no overhead compartments, or very small overhead compartments, I "gate check" my carry on. That means I leave it at the door to the plane and pick it up there at the end of the flight. It totally eliminates the chance of lost luggage.
When I travel on diving trips, I cannot risk the loss of my very expensive dive computer, prescription masks, cameras, etc., so those are what I take in my carryon. Other stuff can be borrowed or bought wherever I'm going, but my whole trip would be pointless if I get to my destination and don't have the gear to dive.

Finally, I got some of those new locks approved by TSA, for my check through luggage and that does give me some peace of mind.

Have flown Southwest a couple of times and it was OK as long as you download & print your boarding pass early - that way you are likely to get in Group A. If you're in B or C, you have to stand in line for 1/2 an hour or more in hopes of not getting stuck in a middle seat.
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unschooler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 03:04 AM
Response to Reply #1
18. Why would I want to board FIRST?
I'd rather sit and wait in the airport than in my cramped little seat inside the jet.
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wakeme2008 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 03:50 AM
Response to Reply #18
20. Because you get to pick your seat in the front of the plane and
get off first. :)

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unschooler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-11-06 07:36 PM
Response to Reply #20
31. Oh. I get it. It's first come, first served. I usually try to reserve
a seat up front, but I guess if I couldn't do that, I'd be willing to get on first.
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AndyTiedye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 12:03 PM
Response to Reply #18
24. Because The Overhead Bins Aren't Full Yet
If you board last, better not be carrying much of anything on.

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SeattleGirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:08 AM
Response to Original message
2. I think one of the things that holds up boarding the most is
carry-on luggage. Specifically, when folks are stowing it in the overhead compartments. I've seen people rearrange what's already in there, or stand in the middle of the aisle and go through their carry on before stowing it and taking their seats. Why don't they stow it, or hold it in their laps until the plane is loaded? They can use that time to dig through their bag, get what they need, and after the place is load, stuff it in the overhead compartment.
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:14 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. That's because when the plane takes off all carry on has to be
"secured" either under the seats or in the overhead compartments.

And with so much luggage get lost or misdirected, more and more will carry this huge carry ons that cannot fit into the smaller commuter planes that airlines like to use.

And people rearrange what is already there because others selfishly spread their coats or jackets across the bin.
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barb162 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:17 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. Anyone blocking that narrow aisle holds everyone up
I think they should load planes from back to front just for that reason
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LastLiberal in PalmSprings Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:35 AM
Response to Reply #2
9. Another carry-on baggage issue
The passengers who are assigned seats in the back will put their carry-on bags in the front bins. This results in passengers who are seated in the front having to store their bags further back in the airplane. It not only slows down boarding, but it's a real mess when it comes time to disembark.

If they were really serious about getting everyone off fast they'd use the emergency slides. If I recall, the FAA requirement is that the entire airplane has to be evacuated within 90 seconds.

Of course, then you've got to repack the damned things...

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Ediacara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:44 AM
Response to Reply #2
11. I agree 100% (see below)
If it were up to me, they would get rid of the overhead bins and make people put everything under the seat in front of them (except of course for bulkhead aisles). This traffic-jam shoving contest is the major problem, and not necisarily loading order.
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 10:42 AM
Response to Reply #11
22. The only problem with under the seats is that different seats
have different spaces under them. The window and center have adequate space, but the aisle often is a lot smaller, certainly narrower than the width guidelines.

What bothers me is that some of the carryons are really huge, yet I have never seen anyone enforcing the size.

Earlier this year we flew NWA from Minneapolis to Chicago. On the ramp before the door there were signs directing passengers to put their carryon perpendicular to the bin, not parallel and thus taking more space, of course.

Except it was a tiny plane - do not recall - where carryon with rollers could not fit in that configuration. Plus, the usual hogs that just spread all over. The flight attendants were no help at all - one really cannot expect anyone whose job may be lost while management is feasting to try more than dining one's job.
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pitohui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:44 AM
Response to Reply #2
12. you must not fly very often
if you fly a lot, you have had the wonderful experience of having had your luggage lost

sometimes multiple times

you will pry my carry on bag away from me in my cold dead hands

seriously you would not be able to fly w. anything of value if carry ons were not allowed
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SeattleGirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:49 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. Carry-ons are not the problem. It is the people who own the
carry-ons who are. People who seem to think that they are the only people in the universe. I pack my most important things in my purse and carry-on, in case the luggage gets lost.
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China_cat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:13 AM
Response to Original message
3. This is all well and good
but doesn't faster turnaround and more time in the air also increase the likelihood of mechanical failures and crashes?

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napi21 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:34 AM
Response to Reply #3
8. No it doesn't. Planes are serviced based upon air miles.
There are mandatory checks at specific mileage points. It doesn't make any difference how many flights they make, but how many miles flown.

The biggest problem I see with crunching time on the ground is rearranging the flight schedules. There is another criteria airlines are judged on, and that's on-time departures. If you had only frequent flyers, there would be NO PROBLEMS! But you don't! People vacationing, visiting a friend, and whatever other reason they decided to fly cannot be controlled by seat number, front to back, side to side, or anything else! Anyone in a relatively new environment is going to be clumsy and inefficient at accompl;ishing the goal...getting their a** in the seat!

The one thing I think could be a bit helpful is for the cabin crew to have all the overhead doors open when boarding. It might only save a few seconds, but it would help the speed.
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Kutjara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:19 AM
Response to Original message
6. It amazes me that these 'efficiency' experts always...
Edited on Wed May-10-06 01:21 AM by Kutjara
...seem to lack an even rudimentary understanding of human psychology. They treat people boarding a plane as if they were bowling balls or bags of hay.

Take the 'outside-in' model. Don't they realise that couples and families are going to be pretty resistant to being told they have to split up while boarding aircraft? By the time the airline has made exceptions for families with children, the elderly or those needing special assistance, nervous flyers, and people in early-boarding seats who arrive at the gate late, you'll have the same chaos as you do now. You might be able to save a few minutes but the system seems very sensitive to small perturbations and far more hassle for already stressed out and dehumanised passengers as it is.

A better way of getting planes off the ground quicker is to reduce the five or six document checks between checkin and sitting down on the plane, expand the size of security zones so that people can get through the checks more quickly, get rid of all the duty-free BS at international airports that takes time and resources to ensure that passengers and their goods arrive at their boarding gate together (yes, Newark, I'm talking about you!), reorganise baggage handling so that the luggage of passengers who don't board can be found and removed quickly. There are a hundred ways that airports and airlines can streamline the job of getting passengers from kerb to seat.

Trying to choreograph how they board the plane is the least of these.
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 03:18 PM
Response to Reply #6
26. Was thinking the same thing
Why not have people boarding from both front and rear doors? Or, with 747s from the center?

This way one door boards from the middle to the front and the other door from the middle to the back. And, as pointed out, above, will prevent people sitting in the back putting their carryons in the front bins.
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Ediacara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:41 AM
Response to Original message
10. WRONG! THIS is how to reduce boarding time
1) Enforce carry-on size restrictions.

2) Remove overhead bins.

3) Make everyone put their single, small carry-on item under the seat in front of them.

I cannot tell you how many total hours I have wasted standing in the aisle while someone has tried to shove their obviously way too big bag in the overhead bin. The only way they can access the overhead bin is by standing in the aisle, and the only way I or anyone else can get to their seat is by walking past the traffic jam they are creating. This obviously creates a problem where their block-headedness stops the entire plane from getting boarded.

I'm not saying their plan might not help, but the overhead bin shovers are the A-number-one problem in boarding planes in my experience.
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pitohui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:47 AM
Response to Reply #10
13. i hope your checked luggage is lost on your next 10 flights
i have nothing against you but i actually have to fly w. items of value and i've had the lost luggage experience more than once

carry ons are a necessity of life and if you are trying to take them from me, you need to have karma happen to you until you "get it"

i've had too many checked bags lost and their insurance coverage is inadequate to cover the value

you are just going to have to wait until the carry ons are stowed in the overhead bin or else change the law to force airlines to pay a hell of a lot more for lost luggage -- and since they are all going broke that ain't gonna happen
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Ediacara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 01:54 AM
Response to Reply #13
15. I didn't say "do away with carry-ons"
Edited on Wed May-10-06 01:55 AM by DinoBoy
I said enforce the size restrictions and make people put them under the seat in front of them. Increase the height of the seat, the size of the seat, I don't care. I just want people to stop standing in the aisle shoving a too-big-bag in a too-small-space 'till their face is blue. I've had my luggage get lost, it's a pain in the ass, I agree 100%, but I would gladly lose my luggage every single trip I ever took for the rest of my life if it meant it took less than 30 minutes to board a plane.
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 03:22 PM
Response to Reply #10
27. Agree with enforcing carryon restrictions
but not eliminating them altogether. This is a catch-22. Once you have your luggage lost or late, you are going to use carryons only.

Under the seats is not adequate as the aisle seats have less space under them then the window and the middle (check, next time you fly).

Some enforcement by the crew would help, too. If someone is insisting on shoving a huge carryon into a small space - a crew member needs to intervene. Rather, a crew member should check these monstrosities before the passenger is even allowed into the cabin.
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dysfunctional press Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 03:30 PM
Response to Reply #10
30. those of us with long legs and big feet don't like your idea.
i generally put my feet under the seat in front of me, and it doesn't leave too much room for anything else.
although i do agree that carry-on restrictions should be enforced- and it seems that more airlines are doing so. but i don't think that overhead bins should be done away with- even tho it would probably be safer and a lot roomier inside the cabin.
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lindisfarne Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 02:00 AM
Response to Original message
16. Shocks to anyone who stands within a square foot of the aisle for more
Edited on Wed May-10-06 02:07 AM by lindisfarne
than 10 seconds should do the tricks.

America West has some funky boarding procedure using "zones". Not sure how it works, but if it boards aisle seats towards the front last, that would explain why I was in Zone 6 most of the time. I didn't think it was particularly faster, though.
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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 02:52 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. LOL...
People lingering in the aisle, taking crap out of their carry-ons, getting their reading glasses, snacks, books and anything else before sitting their asses down do need electric shocks.
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 03:24 PM
Response to Reply #16
28. The original URL has a simulation of several models
I think that one of them is the "zone."
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 10:47 AM
Response to Original message
23. Simulation of models
If you click on the URL, there is a place there to go and view simulations of several modesl.
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ProdigalJunkMail Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 12:25 PM
Response to Original message
25. no amount of studies and models can compensate
Edited on Wed May-10-06 12:28 PM by ProdigalJunkMail
for the one idiot on every flight that tries to violate the laws of physics whilst stowing their bags in the overhead compartment. I fly very frequently...and it never fails. On every flight, there is at least one person who will spend no less than three minutes trying to get their steamer trunk into an overhead storage compartment. They will try it long-ways...short-ways...turn it over...then take something out and try again...it just never fails.

Until the airlines enforce the baggage size limits (and counts) none of this is anything more than academic...it doesn't make a difference...

subjectProdigal
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AngryAmish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-10-06 03:30 PM
Response to Original message
29. Who flies commercial anymore?
Edited on Wed May-10-06 03:41 PM by AngryAmish
netjets, baby
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