There’s nothing like the airport to remind us that, despite college degrees, fancy shoes, or six-figure incomes, we need to be handled like cattle in order for the system to flow smoothly. We queue to get your ticket, wait patiently in security lines, take off our shoes and belts, step slowly through the metal detectors, put ourselves back together, and trot to the gate, where we break off into separate herds and wait to file onto the plane. It’s only once we’re left to our own devices in the airplane aisle that the pushing and shoving begins and everything seems to fall apart. Thankfully, a group of mathematicians is working out the kinks in this last bit of pre-air travel.
If you think air travel is tough in the U.S., imagine what it’s in China, where the air transportation has taken off from about 10 million passengers in 1950 to 200 million passengers at last count in 2010. China’s growing passenger air travel industry is the case example for a recent study of how to guide people to their seats most efficiently. The study, authored by a group of researchers at Beihang University in Beijing, offers a new boarding model that quantifies “passengers’ individual properties,” such as age, luggage items, check-in times and other personal factors.