All aboard! (But be quick, please)  Flying can be a traumatic and exceedingly frustrating experience. Over the past ten years, airline carriers have fought back from the brink of insolvency, driving growth by enacting and implementing fees. In their constant battle to achieve business cost reductions, airline officials have increasingly worked to expedite boarding times.

The same charges that have launched airline carriers toward profitability have also had deleterious consequences on boarding times, experts say. Since the 1970s, for example, the average boarding time has more than doubled. The decreased efficiency has left many passengers annoyed and has contributed to an uptick in business costs for airlines, which lose a substantial amount of money the longer a plane is idle.

As a result, many airlines have endeavored to streamline the process – to varying degrees of success. The New York Times reports that some airline carriers have successfully cut boarding times, but that others have struggled to develop a comprehensive policy to buttress efficiency.

Spirit Airlines has succeeded where many others have failed, according to experts. The discount carrier, however, differs from many other airlines in its fee scheme. Spirit charges passengers slightly more to carry on their luggage, prompting many of its customers to opt to check bags instead. This has helped trim boarding times by as much as 6 minutes, according to airline officials.

Nevertheless, many airlines do not charge for carry-on items, leaving them at a disadvantage. Officials have had to weigh the potential consumer backlash very carefully when crafting additional fees and charges, and many airline analysts affirm charging customers to carry on bags could spur dissatisfaction, ultimately hurting business.

Some airlines have worked with engineers to create new boarding systems, while others have contracted industrial engineers to apply their computational and mathematics skills to the vexing problem. Still, there are a large number of factors airline carriers consider when developing boarding plans, and they obfuscate efforts to streamline the process.

Many carriers give priority boarding to both frequent fliers and passengers seated in their first and business classes. Still others bestow such a distinction on their elderly and disabled passengers, while some permit families and those traveling with small children to board first. Mathematicians and other experts have struggled to devise a formula that takes into account the seemingly endless list of variables affecting boarding times, but that has not prevented many from trying, the Atlantic Wire reports.

Jason H. Steffen, a Chicago-based astrophysicist, was so frustrated during an exceedingly long boarding process on a flight he took to Washington that he used his prowess in mathematics and science to devise a paper on the matter. His report, "Optimal Boarding Method for Airline Passengers," was published in the Journal of Air Transport Management.

Steffen used a Markov Chain Monte Carlo optimization algorithm and a computer simulation to craft a boarding system that he contended was efficient because it took into account the real world variability that other models do not incorporate.

"The model that I employ assumes that the time that a passenger requires to load his or her luggage is the dominant contribution to the time needed to completely fill the aircraft," he said.

In 2002, America West Airlines, which later merged with U.S. Airways, worked with industrial engineers from Arizona State University to tackle the boarding conundrum. With business costs steadily rising as a result of its inefficient process, airline officials later began employing the "reverse pyramid" scheme the engineers concocted. Essentially, the system worked by seating passengers in the back of the plane with window seats first, then subsequently filled in spaces to the front.

However, U.S. Airways scrapped the planned in 2007, noting passengers in its first and business class seats were often unable to secure luggage space.

With more airlines endeavoring to drive efficiency and achieve business cost reductions, many continue to funnel money toward the development of an improved boarding system.

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