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Design & Engineering: The Way We Board Planes is Totally Wrong


Maybe this is a better way?

Maybe this is a better way?

Happy Monday!  Today’s post may not seem like it has anything to do with Science, Technology, Engineering or Math but figuring out the best way to board a plane is a complex design and engineering problem – one big, frustrating design and engineering problem that each of us has run face-first into every time we travel.  So it’s a perfect way to look at a real-world application of STEM.

The current method of boarding on most airlines is to board the plane starting with the passengers at the back (after the first-class passengers) and working forward.  The problem – as everyone knows – is as passengers board and try to find a place for their carry-on luggage, the aisle backs up and inhibits those who are still waiting to board.

According to published research studies (how cool is it that there are researchers that have done academic research papers on airplane boarding?!?) the Southwest method of boarding a plane seems to be more efficient than the current back-to-front system.  In the Southwest system, passengers are assigned a boarding order and then choose their own seats.  This typically results in the exit rows, bulkheads, windows and aisles going first with the middle seats (for some strange reason?) going last.

If you want the absolutely most efficient way of boarding a plane, research shows that The Steffen Method.  The Steffen Method boards back-to-front with one side of the plane’s window seats, followed by the other side, then the first-side’s middle seats, the second side’s middle seats, followed by the aisle seats.  One modification is that the method requires every other row to be boarded first in order to alleviate aisle crowing while carry-on luggage is stowed.

So next time you are waiting to board – and all of the overhead bins are full – send a message to the airline and tell them to go back to school and study STEM!

For more information, click here.


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