Anyone who flies knows not all boarding process are created equally, but they might not know there's data suggesting airlines still use one of the most inefficient methods out there.
Historically, airlines have stuck with a back-to-front system to allow passengers with seats in the rear to board first, eventually filling up to the front of the plane. It's a method that makes sense on paper but it doesn't guarantee passengers already seated won't have to get up and enter the aisle to allow someone else to enter the row.
Factor in passengers' needs to store carry-on luggage at the same time, crowding in the aisle in the process, and the process quickly becomes time-consuming, according to Vox Media.
You can watch the process above.
For airlines, not only is the boarding process an inconvenience for customers but it's also a money-costing inefficiency. A study from Boeing analyzing data from 1970 to 1998 shows boarding times have slowed down by 50 per cent, meaning airlines spend more time moving people on and off planes when they could be making money flying more passengers in the air.
As a result, airlines have toyed with alternative methods to boarding passengers. U.S. Airways has adopted a random method where priority members are seated first, followed by everyone else based on their check-in time. While there's still some crowding in the aisles, the crowding for bins is mitigated.
Last June, United Airlines adopted a more efficient means that seated people closest to the window first, followed by those in the middle seat, followed by those closest to the aisle. Not only does the process look more orderly, it avoids the issues of people standing up and in the aisle but also means one person is using an overhead bin at a time.
Finally, there's the fastest method in use by Southwest Airlines, which allows passengers to board based on their order of check-in but doesn't use assigned seating in economy class.
The system means if the person ahead of you is taking too long to get out of your way, you could, theoretically, sit down in the row you're standing in. A 2012 episode of "Mythbusters'" confirmed it was the fastest method in use, though it did leave passengers upset they couldn't sit with friends or family by default.
Then there are theoretical methods to speed up seating. Back in February, R. John Milne, an associate professor in engineering management at Clarkson University School of Business in New York, suggested airlines board passengers based on their number of carry-on luggage. Passengers would still be seated from back to front and in rows, but rows would be made up of a passenger carrying only two bags, one only bag and one passenger carrying no bags.
Milne says the process would cut down on delays of people cramming aisles trying to jam their luggage into bins, he told the Sydney Morning Herald. According to Milne's simulations, his process clocked in three per cent faster than the back-to-front method.
Then there's the "Steffen method". Created by physicist Jason Steffen, his procedure involves sending in passengers seated in the window seat first but staggers them to maximize overhead bin access. Passengers with even seat numbers by the window would make up the first wave while passengers with odd seat numbers by the window would make up the second. The process would then repeat, working towards filling the seats closest to the aisle and looks like this.
While there are better alternatives to boarding planes, there's little reason for airlines to change the status quo since it means they can monetize long boarding times. Some airlines have begun by offering small perks like priority seating or charging to board early, according to Bloomberg Newsweek.