Faster method of boarding planes devised by Clarkson University researchers
Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 6:11 am

A Clarkson University research team led by School of Business Professor R. John Milne and undergraduate student Alexander Kelly has devised a faster method for airline passengers to board planes.

POTSDAM -- Clarkson University researchers have developed a strategy to ease one of the headaches of airline travel: boarding the flight.

School of Business Professor R. John Milne and undergraduate student Alexander Kelly have devised a method that assigns airline passengers to a specific seat based on the number of bags they carry, causing luggage to be evenly distributed through the plane. Each row of seats would tend to have a passenger with two bags, a passenger with one bag and a passenger with no bags.

They reasoned that “the new method would save at least several seconds in boarding time and prevent any one area of the plane from becoming overloaded with bags,” Milne said. “Airlines could provide a smoother boarding experience for passengers by utilizing the research.”

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

The Los Angeles Times featured a story on Clarkson’s research in its Jan. 5 edition; NBC’s "Today Show" also mentioned it on Jan. 6.

Kelly, a computer science and mechanical engineering dual major from East Greenbush, tested the method by running thousands of computer-simulated airplane boardings.

“It was a great connection to see how academic research can solve a real-world problem,” Kelly said. “This research helped me find what kind of work I enjoy doing and directed me towards a full time position I accepted with General Electric Intelligent Platforms this year.”

You can read the study at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969699713001166 .