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Faster method of boarding planes devised

January 6, 2014
Clarkson University
Researchers have come up with a new way to reduce the time it takes to board an airplane. Passengers are assigned to seats based on the amount of luggage they carry, distributing carry-ons evenly throughout the plane, resulting in a reduction in the total time to board all passengers.

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.
Credit: Clarkson University Photo by Ting-Li Wang

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.

"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, the Neil '64 and Karen Bonke Assistant Professor in Engineering Management, 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 explained. "For instance, a large airline like Delta may be able to save about ten million dollars a year."

Kelly, a computer science and mechanical engineering dual major from East Greenbush, N.Y., tested the method by running thousands of simulated airplane boardings through a computer model. The experience helped him hone in on a career path.

"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."

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Clarkson University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. R. John Milne, Alexander R. Kelly. A new method for boarding passengers onto an airplane. Journal of Air Transport Management, 2014; 34: 93 DOI: 10.1016/j.jairtraman.2013.08.006

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Clarkson University. "Faster method of boarding planes devised." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2014. <>.
Clarkson University. (2014, January 6). Faster method of boarding planes devised. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 30, 2017 from
Clarkson University. "Faster method of boarding planes devised." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 30, 2017).