The fastest way to board a plane
S. Erland et al./PR-E/ty_yang/Pixabay
- The researchers used 4D mathematics to determine which planes board the fastest when the slowest passengers take off first.
- The quality of life on board aircraft already seems poor and slow boarding can even lead to flight delays.
- This research uses 10,000 simulated boardings to classify four boarding algorithms.
New research shows that letting the slowest passengers board first leads to the most efficient boarding overall. Look for the follow-up study “How maddening sighs and slow startling eyes”.
Trying to determine the best way to perform a chaotic activity like boarding an airplane is a optimization problem: Scientists choose parameters to try to minimize or maximize, such as the time it takes everyone to get on the plane. These problems are very old, but computer technology has given scientists powerful new tools for “brute force” solutions, which means they can perform long lists of complex calculations that would have taken years, even lifetimes. , for human mathematicians to do by hand.
Imagine trying to guess someone’s four-digit PIN code by entering all of the possibilities, one at a time, into an ATM. A computer plugged into an ATM could spam all combinations much faster and more directly. (This is one of the reasons the three-try limit is so common.)
For their simulations, researchers from Norway, Israel and Latvia used a four-dimensional space-time model. This approach, called Lorentzian metric, uses the same principles that inform general relativity and allow researchers to model whether passengers are lagging each other in line (“timelike” separation) or able to board simultaneously (“spacelike” separation). They argued that the fastest passengers are five times faster than the slowest and used a congestion parameter set at three different levels to frame the process realistically.
The researchers created a group where 20 percent are slow passengers, and they advice at 20 percent of maximum speed. They used four styles of boarding: slow passengers first, fast passengers first, random boarding, and rear to front.
“Remarkably, on average, the fast-first policy leads up to about 98%. [percent], ” the researchers write. But that’s when the persistent slow boarders lengthen their tails and drag the process, and the politics of first gear comes in second. The slow approach first wins, and the fast first approach takes 7% more. (Fast first is always significantly faster than a purely random boarding.)
“The fact that the policy of slowness first is superior can be explained intuitively by the fact that it is the most parallel among all the policies, that is to say that it exploits better the possibility of doing sit passengers simultaneously, while other policies have a more serial structure, “the researchers explain. Write. In other words, as the slow passengers move down the aisle, the space behind them becomes available. so that faster passengers can enter and sit, and this space expands as slower passengers progress.
It is telling that the fast-first approach remains in the lead up to 98% completion. When the slowest passengers board last, they are still just as slow, but now there are no other passengers who can embark in parallel with them. In place, correct slow people were the most late to start boarding. Your minimum possible value is already greater: the time that the slowest people will take to board, more as long as they were delayed, instead of starting right away.
Airlines can’t ask people “are you a slow boarder?” But there are demographic cues they might consider using, such as older people, large groups boarding together, people who use mobility aids that need to be folded up and stowed away, or people with young people. children that need to be installed.
In practice, boarding by privilege level simply makes boarding appear more peaceful for passengers with more expensive tickets, or who have paid for premium boarding. And these delays affect airline results: “For airlines, it’s not just the average boarding time that matters. The frequency of departure delays due to a surprisingly long boarding time could also be relevant, ”the researchers write.
The team concludes that their model leaves plenty of room to add more parameters and complexity to model reality even better. “However,” say the scientists, “recent empirical research shows that such models explain real data quite well.” They believe their general conclusions based on the performance of 10,000 simulated boardings provide a solid foundation for future research to build on.
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