Boarding a plane always seems to take longer than it should.
You wait patiently as business class and families board, and then watch hopelessly as the plane fills up, usually from back to front. People take their time stowing away luggage, taking their seats, and crowding up the aisles while you spend precious minutes waiting to buckle up.
Is there a better way? Yes, according to an episode of “Mythbusters.”
Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman did a whole segment on the best way to board a plane on their popular Discovery Channel show. With an empty hangar, the team built an aeroplane interior with 173 seats and staffed the mock aircraft with actual cabin crew to facilitate boarding as well as real overhead luggage compartments.
They even had actual passengers with luggage and tickets to make the process seem more real, and gave 5% of the passengers directives to behave “problematically” by going “upstream” after using the bathroom, bringing small children, sitting in the wrong seat, or wasting time in the aisle.
The show then tried a variety of boarding methods to determine which procedure is the quickest, from the standard back-to-front method to an elaborate style known as the “reverse pyramid.” Each method of boarding was also evaluated by the passengers, with points given or taken away based on their impression of the boarding technique.
And unsurprisingly, the way many airlines board passengers — the back-to-front method — was the slowest method by far at 24 minutes and 29 seconds. People were also pretty unhappy with it with a satisfaction score of 19 out of a possible 173 votes.
The most time-effective method proved to be the free-for-all style where passengers could choose their own seats on a first-come, first-serve basis. Due to stress and a lack of order, however, it was also the least popular method with a rating of -5.
The winning method ended up being the Reverse Pyramid, which is similar to the WILMA method, or window-middle-aisle style of boarding, but goes in sections, like so:
With a satisfaction rate of 113, it was the highest score and still only took 15 minutes and 10 seconds, around the same amount of time as WILMA (14:55) and WILMA Block, where the plane is seated by window-middle-aisle seats in sections (15:07).
Here’s hoping airlines will one day watch this episode of “MythBusters” and change their ways. You can see a snippet of the episode from Discovery below.