Algorithms Not Just For Search Engines

May 10, 2006 at 5:07 pm 1 comment

Interesting article from about how airlines are trying to improve (speed-up) airline boarding times.  The obvious reason is that the faster people get onto a plane, the more time the airplane can spend in the air, resulting in more flights, which equals more revenue.

But the chaos of aircraft boarding may soon go the way of the 727. Several major airlines are working to develop more efficient ways to board an aircraft, using computer simulations to come up with mathematically proven — if counterintuitive — boarding models with names like the "rotating zone system" and the "reverse pyramid."

Professor René 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.

It looks like Southwest Airlines might subscribe to Wisdom of Crowds:

Southwest Airlines takes a low-tech approach to boarding, placing passengers into one of three groups based on their check-in time, and allowing them to take any open seat once their group is called. Representative Whitney Eichinger says that this method has served Southwest well since it began flying in 1971, and that the airline enjoys some of the quickest turnaround times in the industry.

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."



Entry filed under: Airlines.

Wisdom of Crowds + Web Analytics = The Future Third Party Ad Serving – What Is It?

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