For the past decade or so, airlines and academics have tried to come up with the fastest way to load a plane, for good economic reason: The less time airlines spend boarding passengers, the more revenue-generating flights they can squeeze into a day.
Every minute cut on boarding can save $30 a flight, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Air Transport Management.
Some airlines load from the back of the cabin to the front, while others load passengers in the window seats first and work their way in.
Now a Denver airline interior designer has a new idea to cut the load time: An aisle seat that slides away from the aisle and ends up on top of the middle seat, expanding the aisle space from 19 inches to 43 inches. After boarding in each row is completed, the aisle seat is slid back into position.
With the wider aisle, Molon Labe Designs said its "Slider Seat can cut loading time in half. The downside is that the seats have very little cushion and do not recline.
Hank Scott, founder of the company, said he has shown the design to aircraft builders Airbus and Boeing Co. and is working to build a prototype by November.
Scott said the seats were designed to save fuel and maximize cabin space for airlines on short-haul flights of less than three hours.
"I'm not going to tell you it's a comfortable seat," he said. "It's a quick-turnaround seat."
About 80 percent of air travelers who participated in a survey at travel search website Fly.com said they would like to connect to the Internet by Wi-Fi while in flight.
But slightly less than half said they would access the service only if it was free.
About 27 percent of the travelers said they would be willing to pay only if the charge was $5 or less. The finding should be no surprise. A 2010 survey by J.D. Power & Associates of 53,000 travelers found that free Wi-Fi was the most desired amenity for hotel guests in nearly every segment of the industry, from luxury hotels to budget lodgings.
The difference between hotel guests and airline passengers is that many hotel guests do get it free. Among guests staying at mid-scale hotels, 96 percent said they got free Wi-Fi, as did 64 percent of guests at budget hotels, according to the J.D. Power survey. None who stayed in luxury hotels said they got free wireless Internet.
The bad news for fliers: No major airline offers free Wi-Fi access. However, good news for the 27 percent in the Fly.com survey -- several carriers offer Wi-Fi at a starting price of $4.95.