Slashdot has an interesting post about some research about strategies for getting people onto airplanes quickly.
This is a big deal for airlines because the planes are a major capital expense. Every minute the airplane sits at the gate is a minute it's not in the air earning money for its owners. Faster boarding times would mean a plane could fly more flights in a day, increasing total revenues. The researchers apparently found that the best method was "row-by-row, seat-by-seat, strict order," starting at the back of the plane. But they think flyers wouldn't go for that, because it would mean forming a long line in that order. But I'm not so sure. Here's what airlines should do: re-model the waiting areas so that the chairs are laid out the same way they are on an airplane, complete with a number on each seat. Ask passengers waiting to board the flight to sit in the chair corresponding to their seat on the airplane. Then, when it's time for the airplane to board, they're already in the right order and it's trivial to have them line up in that order for boarding the real airplane. It's true that this would cost the airlines some money up front, and it would lead to somewhat less efficient use of the waiting areas. But chairs and floor space are a lot cheaper than airplanes. If the arrangement allowed for even a small increase in the efficiency of aircraft boarding procedures, it would pay for itself in no time. The closest to this arrangement that I've seen is Southwest, which is the only airline I've flown on that doesn't have assigned seats. I always found it an annoying airline because I had to "camp out" in line to make sure I got a good seat. But Southwest recently revamped the process
so that everyone had an assigned boarding number and are required to board in strict order. That way, people don't have to stand in line to hold their place, but the airline still gets the benefits of "open seating."