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Travellers' scrum fills plane quickly
By David Millward and Roger Highfield
(Filed: 22/12/2005)

The free-for-all boarding of planes favoured by no-frills carriers is the most efficient way to fill an aircraft, according to a mathematical analysis published yesterday.

Researchers have proved the fastest way to get passengers to their seats is to let them fend for themselves rather than organise conventional back-to-front boarding.

The findings will not be welcomed by the established airlines who allocate seats ahead of boarding. They have invested heavily in computerised systems which allow passengers to claim their spot days before their flight.

But Dr Eitan Bachmat, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, said that even when seats were assigned "the best thing for the airlines to do in terms of telling passengers to board would be to do nothing".

Because boarders are frequently held up while those ahead of them block the aisles, the row-by-row system makes the process longer, not shorter.

"Back-to-front boarding is bad because it is designed for cardboard-thin passengers, or for the spacious surroundings of the first-class compartment," Dr Bachmat said.

"The only thing that might help would be getting people who have seats closest to the window to board first."

The findings are the result of mathematical equations that have a link with Einstein's theory of relativity.

An EasyJet spokesman said: "Boarding from the front and back at the same time means passengers can just find a seat and sit down.

"We always thought this was the best way."