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An end to queuing for flights? Scientists devise formula for boarding

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Lengthy airport gate queues could be slashed by a mathematical model which says passengers should be seated according to the amount of hand luggage they have.

Researchers from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, say getting passengers with more carry-on bags to board first substantially cuts the time it takes to fill a plane.

They claim their method could not only ease congestion for passengers, but in so doing also save airlines up to $10million (£600,000) a year each in costs associated with delayed flights.

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Why are we waiting? Researchers have devised a mathematical formula they say can slash boarding times

Professor R. John Milne and undergraduate student Alexander Kelly say their new method is about 25 per cent faster than allowing passengers to simply queue up and board at random.

Their method involves profiling passengers by the number of bags they are carrying, then calling those with the most hand luggage to board first.

These passengers will then be seated by the window, so they won't have to stand up to clear the way for those boarding after, wasting precious seconds.

Previous studies have found that passengers with two bags take around 60 per cent longer to board than those who have no bags.

The researchers also noted that the speed of boarding had almost halved since the 1960s, from about 20 passengers per minute, to just nine passengers a minute by 1998, as travellers responded to increased fees for checking into the hold.

According to the Clarkson University method, the slowdown can be reduced by seating passengers with the most bags first in seats next to the windows, meaning they and their luggage are out of the way as quickly as possible.

Passengers with fewer bags come second, and would be assigned to the middle seats. Finally, passengers with no bags to stow in the overhead lockers would board last, and would fill up the aisle seats.

Building on the work of physicist Jason Steffen, who had previously tackled the problem, the plane would be filled from back to front, with those in odd numbered rows first. The process is repeated for for window seats on the other side of the cabin, then for passengers in middle and aisle seats.

The new method saves time by making sure those passengers with the most bags have the most space available to pack them when they board the plane, and also by giving them enough space in the aisles so they don't bump into each other.

'The key aspect of our proposed method is that it assigns airplane passengers to seats so that their carry-on luggage is spread roughly evenly throughout the plane,' the researchers write.

'This reduces the time passengers take to find available storage in the overhead bins when storing their luggage.'

They said: 'The key difference between our method and that of Steffen is that Steffen assumes passengers have been assigned to seats irrespective of the luggage they carry and our method assigns passengers to seats so that the luggage is distributed evenly throughout the plane.'


How it works: This diagram shows how passengers with the most bags (denoted by the cell number) are seated first by the windows. Those with one bag come second, and those with none fill up the aisle seats

Prof Milne, who specialises in engineering management, said: 'The new method would save at least several seconds in boarding time and prevent any one area of the plane from becoming overloaded with bags.

'You add that up over thousands of flights a day over the course of a year; it can really make a difference. For instance, a large airline like Delta may be able to save about ten million dollars a year.'


Easy: According to the formula, the slowdown caused by passengers with bags can be reduced by seating them first in seats next to the windows, meaning they and their luggage are out of the way

Mr Kelly, a computer science and mechanical engineering dual major from East Greenbush, N.Y., tested the method by running thousands of simulated airplane boardings through a computer model.

He said: 'It was a great connection to see how academic research can solve a real-world problem.'

However, Prof Milne and Mr Kelly concede that their formula doesn't take into account a range of other factors that might affect passenger boarding.

They write: 'Our method does not consider personal factors such as groups traveling together, passenger seat preferences, first class passengers, and passengers with special needs.

'These factors remain as consideration for further study.'

The research was published in the Journal of Air Transport Management.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2625496/An-end-queuing-flights-Scientists-devise-formula-boarding-airline-passengers-depending-hand-luggage-have.html#ixzz31RL8pw1L
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