The problem of finding an optimal back-to-front airplane boarding policy is explored, using a mathematical model that is related to the 1+1 polynuclear growth model with concave boundary conditions and to causal sets in gravity. We study all airplane configurations and boarding group sizes. Optimal boarding policies for various airplane configurations are presented. Detailed calculations are provided along with simulations that support the main conclusions of the theory. We show that the effectiveness of back-to-front policies undergoes a phase transition when passing from lightly congested airplanes to heavily congested airplanes. The phase transition also affects the nature of the optimal or near-optimal policies. Under what we consider to be realistic conditions, optimal back-to-front policies lead to a modest 8-12% improvement in boarding time over random (no policy) boarding, using two boarding groups. Having more than two groups is not effective.