A Random Process Beats an Orderly One

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Random Process Beats an Orderly One

Corporations, governments and other institutions sometimes devote a lot of thought, strategizing and intricate planning to produce "solutions" that make a problem worse. Today's issue of USA Today offers an example from the corporate world -- the boarding process for commercial jetliners.

For years, it seemed only logical that boarding planes by row, starting from the rear of the aircraft, would shorten the time needed to fully board all passengers. But, apparently, the airlines were making a false assumption:
Beginning in late May, [Northwest Airlines] began rolling out a new random boarding process for coach sections. Now, passengers on the USA's No. 5 airline simply line up and take their assigned seats in no particular order.

By shifting to random seating, the carrier has junked the back-to-front boarding system still in wide use in the airline industry. .... Northwest spokesman Dean Breest says tests earlier this year showed its new system cuts five to 10 minutes from the process. The net effect: Northwest now gets a flight with 200 passengers ready for takeoff in 20 to 25 minutes.

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