Intuitively, it seems the worst boarding method would be to load passengers from front to back, as aisles would immediately be blocked. But to some degree, that's what happens on most airlines, because first-class passengers sitting in front of the plane and those with elite flying status board first. So, airlines balance efficiency with how much revenue they can generate from elite fliers and passengers who pay extra to board early, said J. Rene Villalobos, an Arizona State University professor who helped invent the reverse pyramid boarding method once used by America West Airlines and US Airways. "Efficiency is trumped by their revenue-generating schemes," he said. Still, no airlines use a front-to-back boarding procedure for coach class. Most do the opposite, loading back to front. That seems to make sense; the first people aboard move to the back of the plane, which would seem to keep the line moving. However, because travelers are bunched up in the aisle, it takes a while to get seated, studies show. Perhaps surprisingly, an experiment by Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist who works at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, found this popular method -- used by more domestic airlines than any other, including Continental, US Airways and other smaller carriers -- was the slowest way to fill a plane of five methods he tested.
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