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Problem Title: The Airplane Seating Problem

  Year: 2007      
  Student Level: Undergraduate      
  Source: MCM      
  Commentary: Yes (1)      
  Student Papers: Yes (8)      

Airlines are free to seat passengers waiting to board an aircraft in any order whatsoever. It has become customary to seat passengers with special needs first, followed by first-class passengers (who sit at the front of the plane). Then coach and business-class passengers are seated by groups of rows, beginning with the row at the back of the plane and proceeding forward.

Apart from consideration of the passengers' wait time, from the airline's point of view, time is money, and boarding time is best minimized. The plane makes money for the airline only when it is in motion, and long boarding times limit the number of trips that a plane can make in a day.

The development of larger planes, such as the Airbus A380 (800 passengers), accentuate the problem of minimizing boarding (and deboarding) time.

Devise and compare procedures for boarding and deboarding planes with varying numbers of passengers: small (85-210), midsize (210-330), and large (450-800).

Prepare an executive summary, not to exceed two single-spaced pages, in which you set out your conclusions to an audience of airline executives, gate agents, and flight crews.

Note: The 2 page executive summary is to be included IN ADDITION to the reports required by the contest guidelines.

An article appeared in the NY Times Nov 14, 2006 addressing procedures currently being followed and the importance to the airline of finding better solutions. The article can be seen at:


Judges' Commentary: The Fusaro Award Airplane Seating Paper

Marie Vanisko
Carroll College

Peter Anspach
National Security Agency

  Student Papers      

Boarding at the Speed of Flight

Duke University, Durham, NC


Novel Approaches to Airplane Boarding

Duke University, Durham, NC


The Unique Best Boarding Plan? It Depends...

National University of Singapore


Airliner Boarding and Deplaning Strategy

Peking University, Beijing, China


Best Boarding Uses Buffers

Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA


Modeling Airplane Boarding Procedures

Truman State University, Kirksville, MO


American Airlines' Next Top Model

University of Puget Sound, Tacoma,WA


Boarding-Step by Step: A Cellular Automaton Approach to Optimising Aircraft Boarding Time

University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa