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The Dumb Way We Board Airplanes Remains Impervious to Good Data

If the conference calls that come with earnings reports attracted exhausted travelers instead of financial analysts and journalists, there’s no way Delta, United, American, and Southwest could make it through the week without getting an earful about the agonies of boarding an airplane.

While airlines policies vary—there is no standard accepted way of loading passengers—any “eye test” indicates that having travelers line up at the gate, only to wait again inside the plane, isn’t efficient. Data back this up: Boeing’s research showed that boarding a plane was 50 percent slower in 1998 than in 1970. “Boeing believes that these trends will continue,” the study noted, “unless the root causes are understood and new tools and processes are developed to reverse the trend.”