Air Passenger Preferences: An International Comparison Affects Boarding Theory

Eitan Bachmat, Sveinung Erland, Florian Jaehn, Simone Neumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Managerial optimization challenges in service industries often entail the need to ensure customer satisfaction. For example, in airplane boarding, the boarding time should be minimized, but to ensure customer satisfaction, the process must not be too stressful for passengers. However, many authors assume that total boarding time minimization and customer satisfaction are complementary goals, even though there is little empirical knowledge on the topic. We challenge this assumption and contend that the discomfort perceived by an individual primarily depends on their personal boarding time, that is, the time spent waiting to be seated, and only somewhat on the total boarding time of all passengers. It is known that letting slow passengers (e.g., passengers with overhead bin luggage) enter the plane first reduces the total boarding time. However, in the theory section of our paper, we show that the average individual boarding time is minimized by applying the contrary procedure, that is, having slow passengers enter last. This policy modestly increases total boarding time but greatly reduces average individual boarding time. Moreover, we propose a new boarding policy that offers the best of both worlds. Thus, if it is true that passengers care greatly about their individual boarding times, then airlines should rethink their policies. To evaluate this and other hypotheses, we conduct an international survey on air passenger preferences with 1,500 participants equally drawn from Germany, Israel, and the United States. In addition to providing some interesting results on flight preferences in general, the research confirms our hypothesis on individual boarding time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)798-820
Number of pages23
JournalOperations Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2023


  • applications
  • behavior
  • industries
  • organizational studies
  • queues
  • transportation/shipping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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