We Begin Boarding This Aircraft By…


Nilima Nigam, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec


Airlines have traditionally been allowed to board passengers on their aircraft according to any order they wish [1].  Since boarding times are factored into the scheduling of flights, long periods at the gates limit the number of trips a plane can make. Clearly, efficient loading procedures can translate into a significant competitive edge.


Recently Airbus launched the 380 series of aircraft, see [2] for details.  The Airbus 380 has two decks, and can seat up to 555 passengers in the three-class configuration (see Figure 1 for a comparative schematic).  Both decks have twin aisles.  Most airports are not yet equipped with multiple jet-way bridges for simultaneous boarding on both decks, and this presents a difficulty for accommodating such a large number of passengers efficiently.





Figure 1.  Comparative statistics of the Airbus 380 and Boeing 747 [3].



The basic problem involves an investigation of the layout of the Airbus 380 aircraft, and a design of a boarding protocol to minimize boarding times for the 555-passenger, three-class configuration.  The minimization will also involve various constraints.  For example, the airline would like first-class and business-class passengers to have boarding priority. Also, the airline would like to know how the protocol would change for airports with multiply jet-way bridges.


It will be very tempting to begin by tracking each passenger’s path through the cabin, but given the number of passengers and the size of the aisles, this may not be the best modeling strategy.  The objective for the group, then, will be to consider various modeling approaches in order to come up with a suitable boarding protocol for different airport situations [4].





[1] http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/11/14/business/14boarding.html. (A popular-science article on various boarding procedures on current aircraft.)


[2] http://www.airbus.com/en/aircraftfamilies/a380/.  (Details on the Airbus.)


[3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4990780.stm.  (A BBC News article.)


[4] A good introduction to queuing theory, and your favorite probability textbook.