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Random Fact of the Day

From a report by Boeing:

Since 1970, the actual speed at which passengers boarded an airplane (enplane rate) has slowed by more than 50 percent, down to as low as 9 passengers per minute. (figure 3) Similar through-stop time increases and boarding rates have been observed for wide-body airplanes. The trends are generally attributed to increased passenger carry-on luggage, more emphasis on passenger convenience, passenger demographics, airline service strategies, and airplane flight distance (stage length). Boeing believes that these trends will continue unless the root causes are understood and new tools and processes are developed to reverse the trend.

Of course, new queuing systems have been proposed, but they all depend on compliance — people not sorting through their bag in the overhead compartment and holding up dozens of others, or people boarding out of order and being held back for not being biz class, etc.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 at 2:15 pm and is filed under Etc.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Random Fact of the Day”

  1. bikermark Says:

    I have noticed that beginning a few years ago, airlines began padding their departure and arrival times. (Why does it take 1.5 hours to fly from Washington National to Philly on an average day?) I assumed this cushion was so the airlines could claim improved on time performance. Now I’m wondering if the actual cause may be the increase in boarding/deplaning time.

    Oh well, airlines created this problem by charging people for checked baggage. Why pay for one large bag, when you can use a roller-board + a mammoth personal bag? I’m not sure this is Boeing’s problem to figure out.

  2. aaron Says:

    I remember when the shoebomber incident happened, carry-ons were banned. I thought great, this will speed things up. But we went the other direction. We kept carry-ons, made complicated rules, and then started charging for checked bags.

  3. gpsman Says:

    My anecdotal observations suggests more flights being more full of passengers may be a contributor.

    Back in the ’70/80s I often had an entire row to myself. I don’t think I have taken a flight since 1990 where every seat didn’t have an ass… or ass and a half.

  4. mikey2gorgeous Says:

    Does passenger behaviour/attitude affect things? Were 1970s flyers more easy to control & ‘herd’? I am thinking of people’s behaviour in public from then & now & attitudes to flying (more ‘special’ then) in regard to your mention of compliance being an issue. Have the public become more ‘difficult’?

  5. Bossi Says:

    One critique I have — and I don’t know whether or not it was still true in the days of yore — is that almost every airline tends to board the front passengers first; the rear passengers last. It would seem far more effecient, in my opinion, to switch that around… that way everyone gets to their seats, and then everyone takes care of their luggage (or so my theory goes). Besides, I personally prefer to stand in the terminal as long as possible for taking my seat for the next several hours (ug, a 20 hr flight is only a month away).

  6. Marc Says:

    I think another issue has to do with the rise of wheeled carry-on luggage. If you decide to be lazy and wheel it down the aisle, it slows you down dramatically. For one, it’s always bumping over something or bumping into the seats (or bumping into people’s shins). Secondly, when you get to your seat you have to take the time to shove the handle into the bag, bend down, and then lift it all the way up. Thirdly, those tend to be squarish and not at all squishable, so it’s a lot harder to get one of those bags into a compartment than a more squishable item like a backpack or purse (which can also fit under the seats).

    I have one of those wheeled bags myself; they’re great. We just need to have a public information campaign to get people to CARRY those bags to and from their seat, unless they’re physically infirm or unable. Wheeling it down the aisle is just plain rude; it’ll bang into people’s shins and it slows everyone else up.

    (Along those same lines, I try and remember to carry my backpack on frontwards when boarding or alighting, so it doesn’t swing around and slap someone’s face when I turn.)

    Another possible factor: Americans are demographically getting older, especially the Baby Boomers. Older Americans = longer time to board/alight.

    The airlines have also been slowly decreasing legroom and (I suspect) decreasing aisle widths as well. Decreased legroom makes it harder to slip into your seat and harder to slip a bag underneath your seat.

  7. Patrick Says:

    I remember flying on Gol airlines in Brazil. There you walked out onto the tarmac and there was a set of steps in the front _and_ rear of the airplane (a 737). Same during deplaning. It was easily the fastest enplane/deplane I’ve experienced.

  8. Chris Says:

    Patrick – JetBlue occasionally does this as well. In Burlington, Vermont, they board and deplane at the front and back of their A320s. It’s remarkable how much quicker boarding is.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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