Streamlining Airplane Boarding Methods: Improving Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction

Ben H.

Hatched by Ben H.

May 18, 2024

3 min read


Streamlining Airplane Boarding Methods: Improving Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction


"The way we board airplanes makes no sense." This seemingly simple statement holds a profound truth. Despite the availability of data and numerous studies, airlines continue to utilize a boarding method that proves to be inefficient in terms of both time and customer satisfaction. In this article, we will explore the shortcomings of the standard boarding method and examine alternative approaches that have been proven to be faster and more effective.

The Inefficiency of Standard Boarding Methods:

When considering how to devise a boarding method, one might naturally assume that the current standard is sensible. However, comprehensive simulations and real-life experiments have consistently demonstrated that this is not the case. In 2012, the TV show Mythbusters conducted a study involving 173 participants in a replica airplane interior. The results revealed that Southwest's boarding method emerged as the fastest, closely followed by the outside-in method which involved boarding window seats first, then middle seats, and finally aisle seats.

Alternative Boarding Approaches:

Inspired by his personal experience of being stuck in line at the Seattle airport, physicist Jason Steffen delved into the realm of plane boarding and conducted extensive research in this area. Using computer models, Steffen developed a boarding system that proved to be even more efficient than the outside-in method. His method revolves around a choreographed sequence that allows window seat passengers to board without any aisle waiting at all. By carefully orchestrating the boarding process, Steffen's method minimizes congestion and streamlines the overall boarding time.

Improving Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction in Medicaid Managed Care:

Shifting our focus to the healthcare industry, specifically Medicaid managed care, we encounter PerformRx, a leading player in the market. PerformRx distinguishes itself through a combination of formulary development, specialty pharmacy services, and their URAC-accredited drug therapy management (DTM) program. With a strong commitment to serving the Medicaid population, PerformRx continues to prioritize efficiency and customer satisfaction in their approach to healthcare management.

Finding Common Ground: Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction:

While seemingly unrelated, the inefficiency of airplane boarding methods and the pursuit of efficiency and customer satisfaction in Medicaid managed care share a common goal. Both industries recognize the importance of streamlining processes to optimize outcomes and enhance the overall experience for their customers.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace Data-Driven Decision Making: Airlines and healthcare providers alike should leverage the wealth of data available to them. By analyzing patterns and outcomes, they can make informed decisions that prioritize efficiency and customer satisfaction.
  • 2. Test and Iterate: Just as Mythbusters and Jason Steffen conducted experiments to test different boarding methods, companies in various industries should adopt a mindset of continuous improvement. By testing new approaches and iterating on existing processes, they can uncover innovative solutions that revolutionize their industries.
  • 3. Prioritize Customer Experience: Efficiency alone is not enough. Companies must also prioritize customer satisfaction. By understanding their customers' needs and preferences, they can tailor their services to deliver a seamless and enjoyable experience.


In conclusion, the current standard boarding method for airplanes falls short in terms of efficiency and customer satisfaction. However, alternative approaches, such as Southwest's method and Jason Steffen's choreographed sequence, have proven to be more effective. By embracing data-driven decision making, testing and iterating, and prioritizing customer experience, industries can learn valuable lessons from these examples and apply them to their own operations. Ultimately, the goal should be to optimize processes and enhance customer satisfaction, leading to improved outcomes and success in today's competitive landscape.

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