Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist from the Fermi National Laboratory in Illinois, has designed an algorithmic approach to plane boarding — and unsurprisingly, given the sorry, haphazard state of plane boarding today, his algorithm actually works rather well.  Basically, instead of grouping passengers or assigning blocks, Steffen simply fills the plane by seating a handful of individuals at a time.  The algorithm starts with alternate-row window seats, and then fills in the gaps with another round of window seats.  Then the process is repeated for the middle seats, and finally the aisle seats.  As a result, there is not a single iota of aisle, overhead locker, or seat congestion.  The end result is is a boarding method that is twice as fast as conventional block seating, and apparently a saving of up to $110 million per year per carrier.  Watch the boarding video if you need to see it to believe it.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Here’s another instance of life imitating art.  Last week on a United flight from Denver to New York, I watched Rio, an animated story about bird smuggling.  Turns out the movie’s plot is not a far departure from real-life occurrences. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers recently arrested a LAX passenger attempting to board a flight to China on suspicion of smuggling rare birds.
  • A Virginia college student who stripped to a pair of running shorts to protest intrusive search procedures will be allowed to sue two airport screeners.  The student was arrested at Richmond International Airport in December 2010 after stripping down to reveal a portion of the Fourth Amendment written in black marker on his chest.   The lawsuit charges security officials had arrested the student in response to his protest and not because he failed to follow instructions.  His attorneys claimed he has a right to peacefully object to the government’s treatment of airline passengers provided his actions are not disruptive.
  • Airport dining,  which once conjured up images of heat lamps, stale pizza, overpriced coffee, and terrible service is undergoing something of a renaissance.  And there is a good chance it’s coming to a concourse near you.  This means great barbeque at DFW in Dallas, Southern comfort food at Hartsfield in Atlanta, or a raw seafood bar at Boston’s Logan airport.  Look out Chick-fil-a and Panda Express, better options are moving in.