Vox.com’s Joseph Stromberg reports that the way we board airplanes makes absolutely no sense:
Both simulations and real-life experiments have proven the standard method to be the slowest out of several different ones. In 2012, the TV show “Mythbusters” recruited 173 people to compare four methods in a replica airplane interior and found that Southwest’s boarding method was the fastest. A close second was allowing all windows seats to board first, then all middles, then all aisles (outside-in).
The article is worth a read if just to see the various methods of boarding an airplane (and which one is the most efficient), but it’s at the end of the article where Stromberg theorizes why airlines don’t use the best method:
One possible answer is that the current system actually makes them more than they’d save by switching. As Businessweek pointed out, airlines often allow some passengers to pay extra to board early and skip the general unpleasantness. If the entire boarding process was faster to begin with, many people might not pay extra to skip it.
Bingo. Besides upgrades, arguably the second biggest perk to being an elite member (or credit card holder) is boarding the plane first. Enough so to where even an airline (like Southwest) that boards based on pre-assigned numbers, sells the ability to get an earlier place in line.