For Speedier Boarding, Airlines Could Assign Seats Based On Carry-On Bags

By distributing luggage evenly across each row, passengers could save a few seconds in boarding time and airlines could save tens of millions of dollars.

There are many pain points that come with flying, but researchers have devised a new, faster way to board planes.

With the help of Clarkson University business school professor R. John Milne, Alexander Kelly, an undergraduate studying computer science and mechanical engineering, ran thousands of airplane boarding simulations through a computer model. Their findings: By assigning passengers seats based on the number of carry-on bags they bring, airlines can speed up the boarding process so that each row would have a traveler with two bags, with one bag, and with no bags. The process could save several seconds in boarding time, Milne said, and evenly distribute luggage throughout the plane.

"You add that up over thousands of flights a day over the course of a year; it can really make a difference," Milne told ScienceDaily. "For instance, a large airline like Delta may be able to save about 10 million dollars a year."

More efficient boarding is a topic that also occupies Boeing. As the company's cabin-experience strategy leader, Pete Guard, who is charged with improving in-flight design and comfort, says Boeing has devised strategies to decrease boarding time, but the solution is ultimately up to the airlines to adopt.

There've been a number of design-centric attempts at improving air travel. Boeing, for instance, made a number of changes to its planes' interior, replacing bifold lavatory doors with panel doors. A new concept for airline seats called Morph replaces foam seats with a fabric stretched over the frame to accommodate bodies of different sizes. Even those ugly boarding passes travelers have been accustomed to are ripe for change, and designers have come up with ways to better convey their information.

[Image: Flickr user Franck Mahon]

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  • And how do they know who has how many carry-on bags? According to the rules you are only allowed one, so why would they be letting people check in with two. Also how are they going to accommodate the choice that people make in the first place when they pick their own seats, maybe they like the front or back, or aisle or window. ETC, this is not going to make people happy.

  • Sounds great in principle but I don't believe it is practical. Computer systems don't generally track carry on bags and passengers often do not decide what bags they will have until they pack. Theoretically it may make all the sense in the world but it doesn't stand up to the practicalities of everything else involved in getting travelers from purchase into their seats.

  • Anirban Basu

    I agree with you on practicality of this idea but I also think this could something worth checking as pilot. If I as passenger don't have to wait in queue too long, may be I will change my mindset one day and tell the airline that i will have 1 piece.