Scientists' new mathematical formula to get plane passengers into their seats quicker.

Lengthy airport gate queues could be slashed by a mathematical model which says passengers should be seated according to the amount of hand luggage they have.

Researchers from Clarkson University in New York say getting passengers with more carry-on bags to board first substantially cuts the time it takes to fill a plane.

They claim their method could not only ease congestion for passengers, but in so doing also save airlines millions of dollars a year each in costs associated with delayed flights.

Professor R. John Milne and undergraduate student Alexander Kelly say their new method is about 25 per cent faster than allowing passengers to queue up and board at random.


Their method involves profiling passengers by the number of bags they are carrying, then calling those with the most hand luggage to board first. These passengers will then be seated by the window, so they won't have to stand up to clear the way for those boarding after.

Previous studies have found that passengers with two bags take about 60 per cent longer to board than those who have no bags.

The researchers also noted that the speed of boarding had halved since the 1960s, from about 20 passengers per minute, to just nine passengers a minute by 1998, as travellers responded to increased fees for checking luggage into the hold.

The slowdown can be reduced by seating passengers with the most bags first in seats next to the windows, meaning they and their luggage are out of the way as quickly as possible, according to the research.

Passengers with fewer bags come second, and would be assigned to the middle seats. Finally, passengers with no bags to stow in the overhead lockers would board last, and would fill up the aisle seats.

Recently, Air New Zealand has trialled a different method to board its planes but said there are no plans to change the current system.

"We have previously trialled window/aisle boarding but found our current system to be more efficient," a spokeswoman for the airline said.

Generally, customers who may need extra assistance were boarded first, as well as those who have purchased preferred, exit row or bassinet seating as well as "elite" and "gold" customers, Koru members, and those travelling in business and premium economy.

Remaining customers are then boarded by row number, starting from the rear of the aircraft.

A Jetstar spokesman said the airline used both front and rear doors on its aircraft where possible.

"We are always interested in looking at new research to see if there is an opportunity to improve our operations and the customer experience."