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Ryanair to offer speedier boarding?

 

Having originally caught the attention of the media (and Airbus and Boeing) at last year’s Paris Air Show when it announced it was working with Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC on the design of the C919 aircraft, Ryanair has set the twittersphere alight again this summer after a senior executive revealed the carrier has asked COMAC to consider designing the C919 with wider doors to speed boarding. Such an aircraft would enable Ryanair to increase turnaround times and consequently operate more flights.

 

“The Chinese are willing to listen to what we want,” said Ryanair’s chief financial officer, Howard Millar. “An aircraft manufactured by Boeing or Airbus is a one-size-fits-all. We want two people [to be able] to walk through the door. If the door is wider you can load people on and off the aircraft quicker. We want a low-cost aircraft that suits our business model.”

 

Easily dismissed as a mere media stunt (a successful one at that), detractors also question the engineering behind such an idea – rather like a convertible car where you have to add strength and therefore weight to the lower half of the vehicle to ensure it is robust enough, surely creating wider doors will mean the rest of the fuselage has to be reinforced, thereby negating any possible financial gain as a result of increased fuel costs?

 

 

Left: Low-cost airlines may be interested in Aida Development’s Foldable Passenger Seat, which enables passengers to move directly into the seat row to store their luggage, without blocking the aisle

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, instead of wider doors, aircraft could just have more doors. As we reported back in March 2011, this is the option favoured by Ryanair’s rival, easyJet, which would like a third door in the centre of the cabin. Its ‘ecoJet’ scheme for an environmentally friendly short-haul aircraft features forward-swept laminar flow wings, partly for efficiency but also because moving the wing root aft makes space for a mid-cabin passenger door. The airline says the centre door would accelerate boarding even used on its own, because passengers would be able to head in either direction after entering, rather than forming a single queue in the aisle.

 

 

Right: A twin-aisle short-haul aircraft would speed boarding, but the resulting wider fuselage would also increase drag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you really want to increase boarding efficiency, why not throw in an extra aisle? Or at the very least a wider central aisle that enables passengers to pass each other more easily? Whether Ryanair or easyJet’s plans are realised remains to be seen, but it’s clear that any aircraft manufacturer or cabin designer able to solve the boarding problem is set to clean up. Revolving doors, anyone?

 

 

 

Left: Bigger overhead bins ensure faster and easier loading, therefore speeding the boarding process

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast facts:

• Research has found that for a typical 180-seat cabin, using a third door in the centre of the fuselage (along with the front and rear exits) could shave up to four minutes off the boarding process when using two doors, and 12 minutes off when using just one.


• Any increase in the size of an aircraft cabin door would lead to an increase of the fuselage structural mass – adding cost as a result of extra fuel burned. Foldable seats would also involve a weight penalty.


• Free seating – a common practice among low-cost carriers where the first passengers boarding the aircraft can freely choose their seats – remains the most efficient boarding policy.

 

Right: With the Flying Carpet system from RoundPeg Innovations, passengers simply arrange themselves in row order, before proceeding to the plane, enabling each of them to go direct to their seats unimpeded

 

29 August 2012

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