Flying Carpet

The fastest aircraft boarding system yet devised.

The Flying Carpet is a simple device that makes boarding aircraft quicker and hassle-free for passengers, easier for staff, less costly for airlines. It enables passengers to arrange themselves in row order before they enter the plane, which means they all get to their seats unimpeded, simultaneously.

Taking about half the usual time of boarding, real-world trials confirm that the Flying Carpet is the fastest aircraft boarding system yet devised.

Big cost savings – quicker turnarounds, fewer gate staff

COVID friendly – shorter exposure time, less mingling = less infectious

RoundPeg Innovations Pty Ltd owns all Intellectual Property rights for the Flying Carpet system, including US Patent 8,534,216 B2

Boarding by Flying Carpet

It’s not rocket science, just a simple, common-sense way to get passengers aboard quickly and easily. It’s based on a simple principle – a series of small groups, each arranged in row order before entering the plane.

Passengers have their boarding passes checked in the normal way; the only difference is that gate staff pause checking briefly after every 15 to 20 passengers. This allows passengers to step onto their seat numbers marked on the Flying Carpet, resulting in the group being arranged in row order, rearmost seat passengers nearest the plane. Then it’s just a short walk through the aerobridge, into the plane and down the aisle directly to their seats, unimpeded. All passengers in the group stow their bags and sit down simultaneously!

Takes less than a minute, average is about 45 seconds for everybody in each group to be comfortably seated before the next small group arrives.

No need to push past each other - spread out along the aisle, passengers have plenty of elbow room.

Using the Flying Carpet in this way, 8 to 10 groups in rapid succession gets 150 to 200 passengers aboard a Boeing 737 or Airbus A321 in under 10 minutes. That’s about half the usual time for even the best of other systems. Not just a theory, real-world trials proved it beyond doubt.

And much less chance of infection – less exposure time, but more importantly, there’s far fewer close contacts between passengers. Much lower risk of spreading COVID (or any other illness or disease).

How It Works

The Flying Carpet is a carpet (or other floor covering) marked with a scaled-down replica of the generic aircraft seating plan. It is placed on the floor just beyond the boarding pass checking station.

When boarding commences, passengers file past gate staff who check their passes (paper or phone) in the normal way, then step onto their clearly marked seat numbers on the Flying Carpet. After 15 to 20 passengers have gone through and taken their places, gate staff pause checking for a few seconds to allow this first group to vacate the Flying Carpet and walk to the plane.

Checking resumes until the next group of 15 to 20 passengers form up; this takes about 30 to 35 seconds. Checking is paused again for 10 to 15 seconds, enough time for this second group to clear the carpet.
The process is repeated until all passengers are aboard, typically 8 to 10 groups, about 45 seconds per group.

Inside the plane, being in row order, passengers can walk directly to their seats without having to push past each other. In a typical airplane having thirty rows of seats, the 15 to 20 passengers find themselves well-spaced along the aisle with plenty of elbow room to stow their bags and get seated SIMULTANEOUSLY. They take about 30 seconds, just enough time to do so before the next small group arrives.

Ten groups, one every 45 seconds, gets as many as 200 people aboard a plane in 450 seconds (= nine minutes) plus another minute for the last few passengers to walk down the aisle and get seated.

It’s far quicker than any other method and not just a theory, it works ! The first trial got 171 passengers aboard an Airbus A321 in 13 minutes, the second trial an hour later got 151 passengers aboard in 10 minutes.

That’s about half the usual time and maybe a world record but it’s likely to be broken soon with the benefit of familiarity and experience .

Flying Carpet Advantages

  • Much faster boarding – 10 minutes, half the usual time
  • More civilized process, less hassle for passengers
  • Easy to manage – no need for staff to wrangle passengers into any order
  • Easy to implement – just a floor covering, plus optional simple motorised gates
  • Less regimentation – passengers can be first, last, or whenever they prefer
  • Less chance of infection transfer – less exposure time, fewer contacts
  • Compatible with other systems
  • Consistent On-Time-Performance (OTP)
  • Faster turn-arounds - more flights per day, more flights per gate
  • Better fleet utilisation – fewer planes needed.
  • Lower costs, higher profits

Fastest Possible Boarding

Regardless of technology – facial recognition, paperless passes, automatic gates, etc. - boarding time depends upon the rate at which passengers can physically enter the plane, pausing briefly while the flight attendant checks each boarding pass. This takes about 2 seconds for fit adult passengers with no oversize bags, but 3 seconds is a more realistic average figure.

On this basis, for a typical flight with 150 passengers the absolute minimum time taken for passengers to enter the plane would be 300 seconds (5 minutes). Adding a minute for them to get from the gate through the aerobridge to the plane door, plus another minute for the last few to reach their seat row, stow their bags and get seated, brings the minimum possible time to 7 minutes.

But not all passengers are fit adults, and some have oversize bags, so a more realistic minimum time for a normal flight with 150 passengers would be more like 8 or 9 minutes. In the second trial using the Flying Carpet system, 151 passengers boarded an Airbus A320 in 10 minutes (possibly a world record). Allowing for the fact that this was with inexperienced staff and passengers who had no prior information, it confirms that 8 or 9 minutes is probably a realistic minimum time for 150 passengers.

The take-home message is that airlines using the Flying Carpet System can rely on boarding taking less than 10 minutes, half the usual time.

Time and Motion

Studies by airlines have shown that the time taken by passengers to stow their bags ranges from 15 seconds to a minute, about 34 seconds on average. Hence the time gap between successive boarding groups should also be about 34 seconds. This results in the first passenger in each group entering the plane just as the last passenger in the previous group has taken their seat.

The flow rate of passengers through boarding pass checking is about one every 2 seconds, so after 34 seconds 17 passengers will have reached their places on the Flying Carpet. Checking is paused while this group moves on, taking about 12 seconds to vacate the Flying Carpet, total time 46 seconds. Checking resumes, another 17 passengers take their places on the Flying Carpet, then move on, etc..

The process is repeated at the rate of one group every 46 seconds, 34 seconds apart (between the first passenger in any group and the last passenger in the previous group). The above figures are averages, based on observations from real-world trials. Group sizes can vary, normally between 15 to 20 (as was the case in the trials), the important factor is to maintain the frequency and time between groups. In round figures that’s one group every 45 seconds, with 35 seconds between each group.

The most objective measurement of boarding is the time between the first passengers entering the plane and the last passenger reaching their seat. Using the above recommended figures, 10 groups @ 45 seconds would take 450 seconds (9 minutes) to pass through the plane door. As there are only 9 gaps, this figure allows 35 seconds for the last passenger to get from the plane door to their seat.

As well as being well-spaced timewise, a group size of 15 to 20 also provides optimum physical space – it’s about the most passengers that can comfortably fit with their bags along a typical aircraft aisle having 25 to 30 rows of seats. Being at random, they won’t all be evenly spaced, but most have plenty of elbow room.

Optimising time and motion in this way achieves efficiency but it also makes it more pleasant for passengers - 35 seconds is the longest time anyone has to wait at any stage, and everybody is aboard in under 10 minutes.

Real-World Trials

The first time the Flying Carpet system was used anywhere was during trials conducted by State University of Civil Aviation researcher Vlad Kolesnik at Pulkovo Airport, St Petersburg, Russia during regular flights operated by S7 Airlines (Russia's largest domestic carrier) during April and May 2016. In all, 62 comparative trials were made using several different methods (Uncontrolled, Rear-to-Front (with variations), and the Flying Carpet, a boarding system devised by Australian engineer, Rob Wallace.
The Flying Carpet proved to be the fastest method of boarding by far. In its very first trial (“maiden voyage”) the Flying Carpet enabled 171 passengers to board an Airbus A321 in 13 minutes. As subsequent trials showed, the boarding rate became even faster as staff gained experience. In the second trial an hour or so later that day 151 passengers boarded a 158 seat Airbus A320 in 10 minutes, possibly a world record.

Video of the first trial with commentary can be seen on: Flying Carpet – First Real-world Trial

The rapid times were achieved without confusing or antagonising passengers. On the contrary, even though they received only a last-minute explanation, the overwhelming majority readily understood and cooperated enthusiastically (particularly young people and children), taking care to quickly find and step onto their correct numbered places. The passengers' easy adaption to the system and their positive feedback validates the findings of studies such as Mythbusters that have shown passengers have a strong preference for a system that they see as orderly and fair.

Real-world trials are of course much more authoritative than theories and simulations, except that simulations enable many repetitions thus providing statistical authenticity. Initial simulations (done by an independent Australian firm) showed that not only the average time for boarding was much less for the Flying Carpet but that the standard deviation was also significantly lower. This means that airlines can be more confident of consistently faster boarding via the Flying Carpet.


Robotize (Independent Australian simulation specialist) ran repeated simulations comparing the Flying Carpet system to other boarding systems – Rear-to-Front, Wilma, Random, etc., and found the Flying Carpet to be significantly faster. As well as being the fastest, their report noted that it was more consistent than the others, concluding:
“One of the impressive findings about the Flying Carpet method, is that it delivers a more consistent result, (lowest Standard Deviation) as it is less susceptible to normal variation in seating order.”

Simul8, (independent simulation specialists in USA), who accurately modelled the Mythbusters airplane boarding comparison episode, ran a supplementary simulation on the Flying Carpet and found it to be:
“the most efficient scenario reducing boarding time by 33%. We were able to reduce the boarding time to just over 17 minutes, remember the traditional “Back-to-front” scheme came in at over 25 minutes.” In his conclusion he stated: “This is a great scheme which captures the benefits of random behaviour (creating the wide spread of passengers within the plane) and utilizes the minimum required logic to reduce seat/aisle congestion.”

For details see: Robotize Report, Simul8 Report, Flying Carpet vs Rear-to-Front Airplane Boarding

Note: Both simulations were conducted before the real-world trials which proved the FC system to be even better than predicted.

Mythbusters Comparison

A few years ago, the popular Mythbusters TV show conducted trials comparing boarding methods using a simulated airplane with 173 volunteers. They found the commonly used Rear-to-Front to be slowest, Random (no assigned seating) fastest but much disliked, WILMA and Reverse Pyramid the most orderly and almost as fast as Random.

A summary of the episode can be seen on: Mythbusters Report.

Other Boarding Systems

Most airlines have assigned seating whereby each passenger can select, or be assigned, a specific seat number. Very few airlines have unassigned seating, where passengers are free to choose any empty seat when they enter the plane, which can be very unruly. One exception is Southwest Airlines which doesn’t have assigned seating but still requires passengers to line up in groups prior to boarding.

Generally speaking, all boarding systems require passengers to line up or come forward in predetermined sequences, whether based on computer algorithms, priority or arbitrary selection. It requires compliance from passengers and much input from gate staff to manage to process.

In contrast, the Flying Carpet system doesn’t impose any sequence, it allows passengers to arrange themselves in order at a time of their choosing, which they do willingly with minimal input from staff.


Most airlines still use Rear-to-Front boarding in the mistaken belief that it is efficient. It might seem logical but calling passengers in consecutive rows (zones) just causes congestion. Airlines commonly begin Rear- to - Front boarding by calling passengers in the last 5 rows to come forward. That results in up to 30 passengers trying to get to their seats at the same time! That’s impossible – fewer than 5 at a time can actually reach their row, let alone their seat, all the others are queued up all along the aisle waiting their turn. Several independent studies have proved this, Mythbusters probably being the most noteworthy.

Windows First

Obviously, it makes sense for window seat passengers to board first but that means passengers travelling together become split up and board separately. A significant issue because in most flights more than half the passengers are travelling with a partner, family, or group. It would be better to allow window seat holders and their travelling companions to board together but that complicates the process.
In any case, unless passengers are in row order, Windows First is of limited benefit since congestion still occurs due to hold-ups in the aisle.

Reverse Pyramid

A combination of Windows First and Rear-to-Front, Reverse Pyramid seeks to solve both aisle and seat congestion problems. However, this method requires strict compliance by the passengers, and much input by gate staff to manage the process.


Windows, Middle, Aisle - boarding in this order is logical as it avoids the problem of an already seated passenger having to get up to allow a window and/or middle seat passenger in. As for Windows First, unless the passengers are in row order as well, WILMA is of limited benefit. Also, it raises the issue of dealing with passengers are travelling with a partner, family, or group.


A few years ago, astrophysicist Jason Steffen proposed a method in which passengers are boarded in a strict sequence according to a computer-generated algorithm – alternating half rows beginning with window, then middle, lastly aisle seats. It works well in theory, but it splits up people travelling together. If you, in a window seat, are assigned to be, say, the 23rd person to board it’s unsatisfactory if your companion is assigned to be 67th.

And this is more the rule than the exception - most passengers are travelling in pairs or part of a group (husband & wife, business colleague, club members, school groups) who naturally want to board together.


This is the name given to the situation where seats are not assigned, passengers simply enter the plane and take the seat of their choosing. Although quite fast it can be slowed down because the least-desired middle seats are the last to be filled. Passengers already seated in aisle seats must get up to allow passengers in.

‘Fastest was Random/no assigned seats, but it was also least popular. Passengers didn’t need to find assigned seats – “they took the first they came across, tending to fill from the front”. Passengers “hated it” and it was “overwhelmingly voted Terrible”.’

“I think humans like structure, they want to know that there’s a structure even if it takes longer. It appeals to our sense of justice that things are happening for a reason. Fascinating.” “It is very important that people perceive that the system is fair.”

Adam Savage, Mythbusters, commenting on their comparison of boarding methods “Plane Boarding”, Season 13 Episode 4.


Southwest Airlines is unique in that it does not assign seats. When passengers check in, starting 24 hours before departure, they are given a boarding letter (A, B, or C) and a number (1 through 60). A1 is the first to board and C60 is the last -the earlier they check in the earlier they board, hence have more seats to choose from and space for their bags. Exceptions are for passengers who have privileges or have paid a premium (EarlyBird Check-In).

Currently, Southwest is considering allowing families to board the plane first (and pick seats toward the back of the plane) in hopes of speeding up the boarding process.

It works fairly well but opinions are divided - some passengers like the system, others hate it.


Brazilian airline Azul has tried projecting top-down moving colour-coded images containing seat numbers on the floor of the departure for passengers to follow as they proceed to the gate. As well as lining up a moving queue of passengers in optimum order for efficient boarding, the numbers are spaced well apart to impose social distancing. The sequence is based on either WILMA or the Steffen system of alternating half-rows, and is said to reduce boarding time by 25%, about the same as these methods achieve without expensive laser projection.

Like most methods it involves regimentation, where passengers must come forward in a predetermined order, and raises the problem of splitting up couples/partners/families. A lot depends upon the passengers (a) understanding and (b) complying, so is vulnerable to “cattle crushes” forming whereby passenger surge forward crowding the gate.

Rear Door Boarding

Using both front and rear aircraft doors speeds up boarding but if the passengers are not in row order the fundamental problem remains. In any case, it’s not always possible. Firstly, for security reasons many airports do not permit passengers on the tarmac. Where it is allowable, additional staff are needed to wheel out the stairs, place temporary barriers and be on hand to ensure passengers stay within them. Moreover, climbing the outdoor stairs is unpleasant for passengers (particularly those less able), especially in wet and windy weather.

Much easier and more efficient if passengers are in row order via the Flying Carpet, no need to use the rear door at all.

Unusual Methods

Numerous studies by researchers, aviation experts, mathematicians, astrophysicists, aviation experts, aircraft designers, have come up with all kinds of proposals to improve boarding. These range from wholesale changes to the aircraft cabin to arranging passengers in particular sequences and/or getting them to move more quickly.

Examples are: sliding seats, different seat layouts (2 + 3), larger airplane doors, preboarding, strict passenger sequence, segregation of passenger types, enforcing bag size limits, up-tempo music.

Unsurprisingly, they haven’t been implemented anywhere, being too radical, too costly, annoying to passengers, or of marginal benefit.

Row Order

Getting passengers into row order is the key to efficient boarding. Otherwise, In the narrow airplane aisle, all passengers must wait while one passenger stows their bag and gets seated. On the other hand, if they are in row order before entering the plane, all passengers can quickly reach their rows and get seated simultaneously.

It works very well, as this blogger describes:
“Regarding LCC’s and Pre-seating, I am often reminded of a situation with Virgin Blue in Australia. A flight needed to have extremely fast turn-around in order to beat the Sydney curfew. The ground staff lined everybody up in seat-row order rear to front. So a 737-800 which was virtually full was able to get everyone aboard and seated in less than 5 minutes”. - Blog from ‘Traveller Plus’, Thurs Oct 28, 2010

Full marks to the ground staff for their initiative which got passengers home instead of having to spend the night in an airport hotel. Staff would have found it much easier if they had a Flying Carpet.


Audio announcements are pretty much useless in airports. Apart from the background noise and the fact that a lot of passengers are engrossed in conversation, on their phone or iPad, many of them simply can’t understand what’s being said. Hard enough if you aren’t familiar with the local accent, impossible if you don’t speak the language. Almost always the announcer speaks too quickly - in big, enclosed spaces like airports and railway stations the reverberation means that each spoken word is drowned out by the echo of the previous word.

The upshot is that passengers don’t comply, as soon as they become aware that boarding is about to start they all surge towards the gate resulting in the all-too-familiar cattle-crush.

Boarding systems that depend upon passengers responding to announcements over the PA are doomed to failure. Not a problem for the Flying Carpet as announcements are unnecessary.

Cattle Crush

The all-too familiar cattle crush occurs when boarding is about to begin. One reason is the natural human instinct - people are anxious, they want to move on and can't really relax until they are inside the plane and comfortably seated. Another reason is that the first passengers aboard get first dibs at the overhead baggage compartments. It’s not helped by the fact that many passengers don’t understand or ignore announcements given over the PA.

The cattle crush disrupts most boarding systems, but not the Flying Carpet because there’s no need for passengers to be in any particular order before boarding begins. The Flying Carpet doesn’t prevent the cattle crush but by processing passengers quickly the crush soon subsides.


Most boarding methods involve regimentation, such as passengers having to line up in the departure lounge behind signs depicting boarding groups. Other methods, such as Rear-to- Front, use audio announcements calling passengers in particular seat rows, but many don’t comply because they don’t hear or understand. (Fortunately, non-compliance sometimes makes the system work better). The highest degree of regimentation occurs with the Steffen system which assigns each passenger with a number in a strict sequence.

None of this happens with the Flying Carpet because there’s no need for passengers to be in any particular order prior to boarding. Passengers can choose their own moment to come forward - some passengers like to be first aboard, others prefer to be last.

Boarding Pass Checking

Obviously, faster boarding requires speedy checking of passes, at least one passenger every 3 seconds.
Self-boarding gates avoid the need for staff but aren’t any quicker than manual checking. No matter which method is used, it takes at least 2 seconds for a passenger with a normal bag - two streams in parallel are essential.

Observations at Melbourne Airport show that two gate staff can comfortably achieve the required rate needed for the Flying Carpet system, except for hiccups. Almost always there are hold-ups during boarding pass checking – some passengers have the wrong pass (husband has wife’s and vice versa), others drop their bags, some fumble with their phone, children interrupt, and now and again someone is on the wrong flight. Interestingly, checking passes on phones was slower than for traditional paper passes.

Automatic Gates

Manufacturers of automatic gates might claim a faster throughput of passengers for their products but our observations of patrons passing through turnstiles at airports, sporting stadiums, railway stations, etc. don’t bear this out.

Fastest time observed anywhere was by 10 energetic teenage schoolboys hurrying to a football match who took 17 seconds to pass through a modern turnstile. Hard to imagine normal adults with bags taking only 1.7 seconds each, 2 seconds is a realistic minimum.

On Time Performance (OTP)

On Time Performance is crucial for the efficient operation of an airline, especially when delays result in missed take-off and landing slots. The domino effect of a delay in an early flight affects causes rescheduling headaches for the flight planners all day, not to mention the inconvenience to passengers who miss appointments or connections.
Having endured the tedious processes from check-in, security, customs, immigration, the last thing the passenger wants to hear is that their flight has been delayed.

As well as speed, boarding needs to be consistent for reliable On Time Performance.

Turn-around Time

Fast turn-around times are important for airlines. While several tasks need to be done while the aircraft is parked at a gate (refuelling, loading baggage, replenishing food and drink, etc.) these are invariably completed sooner than the boarding process. Hence faster boarding is the key to increasing the number of flights per day from each gate.
Because the Flying Carpet boarding system can save 10 minutes per departure, the cumulative time saved would enable an aircraft to make more flights every day.

As well as benefiting airlines, faster boarding and turn-arounds also benefit airports - if planes spend less time parked at the gate more flights can arrive and depart each day.
It is especially important for airports which are at near capacity - having a finite number of gates, the only way for airports to accommodate more flights is to ensure faster turn-arounds.

Tight Scheduling

Tight scheduling is important for airline profitability - aircraft only earn money when they are in the air carrying paying passengers. Hence airlines strive to maximise the number of flights their aircraft make each day by tight scheduling. Consistently fast turn-arounds are essential to maintain tight schedules, especially on short-haul inter-city routes where planes typically make six flights per day.

“Our airplanes don’t earn money while they’re sitting on the ground. They need to be in the air.
So, if we can shave even four or five minutes off every aircraft turn, we can fly well over a hundred more flights a day.” - Larry DeShon, senior vice president of airport operations, United Airlines.

“If you save time with each turn of, say, seven flights, you may be able to schedule an eighth flight.”
“The advantage of a fast turnaround is not cutting costs but generating revenue.” - David Swierenga, Economist & Aviation Consultant.


In its simplest form all that is needed to implement the Flying Carpet system is for airports to install carpets in the departure lounge just beyond the boarding pass checking stations. Its compact size (6 x 2 metres) means that not much space is needed, needing only minor rearrangement of the furniture in most situations. The only other improvement would be the installation of motorised gates, similar to those at supermarkets, so that gate staff can easily regulate the process by simple controlled remote controls.

These facilities would be very appropriate at airports which have “common use” gates which are used by several airlines instead of the exclusive gates favoured by larger airlines. All would have the opportunity to use the Flying Carpet to speed up the boarding process, but if any prefer not to they can simply ignore the facilities.


Curfews are imposed at some airports, particularly those close to residential areas. The curfew at Mascot airport, Sydney, Australia, is 11:00 pm to 6:00 am, and heavy fines are imposed on airlines for breaches of this restriction - up to AU$ 550,00 for each offence.

Take-off slots

More than 200 busy airports worldwide allocate take-off slots (more correctly pairs of slots) which give an airline the right to land and depart an aircraft at specified times and use airport facilities.

These have short time windows for turn-arounds, some as little as 40 minutes, and heavy fines are imposed for non-compliance. Qantas was threatened with a £20,000 fine for repeated late arrivals at Heathrow (more than 15 minutes late), and possible loss of their much sought-after early morning slot.

Airlines are willing to pay large amounts for such slots. In 2013, Etihad bought 3 slots from Jet Airways at Heathrow for $70 million. British Airways bought 4 slots for flights to New York at the same airport, for £12 million. Slot trading is an established business at these airports, usually conducted through brokers.


As well as speed, consistent times for boarding are crucial to maintain On-time Performance and tight schedules. As it happens, the Flying Carpet System is very consistent. This was shown by repeated computer simulations – as well as being the fastest the Flying Carpet was the most consistent, having the lowest standard deviation compared to others - Rear to Front, Wilma, Random, etc..

Not surprising when you consider that most other boarding systems are very susceptible to hiccups – if one passenger is slow to get seated, they hold up dozens of others. With the Flying Carpet system, any such hiccup is localised, not affecting other passengers who continue to get seated, hence less delay.

Fleet Utilisation

Better fleet utilisation means more flights flown by each plane which results in lower costs, higher profits. Faster boarding enables this, particularly on short-haul routes where aircraft typically make 5 or 6 flights per day. The extra hour or so gained by faster and more consistent boardings during the day might enable an extra flight. Five flights can become 6 thus enabling a plane to return to its base or arrive comfortably before the curfews which apply at many airports.

Not only greater earnings and profit but fewer planes are needed to fulfil schedules. Not to be sneezed at given the US$ 100 million price tag for an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737.

“For example, a 10-minute faster average turn-time can increase airline utilization by 8% and lower AROC [Airplane Related Operating Costs] for a typical single-aisle airplane by 2%.”
Mansoor Mirza, Boeing Aero Quarterly Magazine, QTR_04 1 08

Cost Savings

A $100 million plane standing idle costs well over US$ 40 minute. First, there's the direct cost of about the dozen or so staff - a couple of pilots, several flight attendants, gate agents plus a few ground staff. Added to this are the very high overhead costs - finance, depreciation, insurance, avionics, maintenance, etc., which brings the total to over US$ 40 per minute.

Ten minutes saved on each of 5 flights made in one day by one plane saves an airline $2000 - about $700,000 in one year. An airline with a fleet of 100 planes stands to gain $70 million per year!

Then there’s the big savings from consistent On-Time-Performance which avoids the huge fines which airports impose on airlines for lateness (£20,000 for late arrivals at Heathrow), AU$550,00 for breaching curfew at Mascot airport, Sydney, Australia. Worse still is the possible loss of take-off slots, worth many millions, whether £, $, or €.

Better still, fewer planes are needed because of better fleet utilisation.

Labour Savings

The Flying Carpet system also reduces labour costs. In its simplest format an extra person is needed for a few minutes to control passengers exiting the Flying Carpet but overall, labour costs are less.

First, it avoids the need for the extra one or two gate staff often needed in the departure lounge to wrangle passengers during other normal boarding methods.

But the biggest labour savings come from the much less time all staff spend waiting for boarding to finish, about a dozen all told – pilots, flight attendants, gate staff and ground staff.

Of course, instead of using an extra person, the exit barrier could be a pair of motorised gates, similar to those found at supermarket entrances. These can be easily operated by one of the gate staff with a handheld remote control, thus enabling them alone to easily manage the entire boarding process.

Oversize bags

Arguably, the biggest bugbear amongst the flying public is oversize bags. Apart from unfairly taking up bin space, passengers struggling to stow their oversize bags delay everybody else. It’s a major cause of slow and inconsistent boarding.

Fortunately, big bags are much less of a problem with the Flying Carpet – all passengers in each group reach their seats simultaneously, if one or two struggle to stow their bags they don’t affect anyone else.

Wrong Flight, surely not?

Just about every week there’s news of someone who boarded the wrong plane and ended up in a different city. Actually, it’s quite common for passengers to be at the wrong gate. Seems silly but it can easily happen to inexperienced travellers in large airports with lots of gates and departure lounges close together. That’s one of the things that gate staff check, as does the flight attendant at the aircraft door, but occasionally one slips through.

COVID and other Illnesses

The risk of infection transfer of COVID or any other illness is reduced to an absolute minimum by the Flying Carpet system – less exposure time, but more importantly, far fewer close contacts between passengers.


Q: Is the Flying Carpet system suitable for all aircraft?

A: Yes, getting passengers into row order before they enter any plane will always speed up the process.

The most benefit applies to single-aisle, narrow-body planes, the workhorses of aviation. 80% of all Airbus and Boeing aircraft in service today are single-aisle. Several major airlines use single-aisle planes exclusively.
Operating on short-haul routes these planes make several flights per day on tight schedules, so speedy, consistent boarding is crucial for OTP (on time performance).

Moreover, the trend is towards even more single-aisle planes as longer-range versions suitable for medium-haul routes are now available. Another trend is toward longer bodies with more seats which of course compounds the boarding problem, best resolved by the Flying Carpet system.

Q: Does the carpet need to be changed to suit different planes?

A: No, the row and seat numbering system is universal for all aircraft, so one size Flying Carpet fits all and can be a permanent fixture. Of course, smaller planes have fewer rows but that doesn’t matter, it just means that not all the row numbers will be used for their flights.

Q: Can the design be customised?

A: Yes, unique designs of floor coverings can be produced very economically nowadays by digital printing. So, the Flying Carpet can be printed to match airline or airport colour schemes.
Different materials can be used too, from low cost vinyl to heavy duty durable carpets like those in high traffic areas in cinema foyers, hotel lobbies, airport lounges, etc..

Q: How big is the Flying Carpet?

A: The generic Flying Carpet depicting an aircraft with 40 rows, 3 seats each side of a central aisle is 6 metres long x 2 metres wide.

With an area of 12 square metres and for average group of 18 the density is 1.5 people per square metre, well below the recommended minimum of 2 for passengers with bags.

It can be smaller, the carpet in the Brazilian trials was shorter and narrower to fit in the corridor, 1.8 metres wide x 5.0 metres long. If it appeared to be getting too crowded at any moment the gate staff paused the inflow of passengers and allowed the smaller group to move on.

Q: The numbered spaces are small, is there enough room on the carpet for passengers in adjacent seats?

A: Each numbered space is 150 x 300 mm, but adjacent passengers don’t need to stay exactly on their numbers, they can spread out if necessary. The main thing is for them to keep in row order.

On average there’s only about one passenger per coloured square, so there’s plenty of space.

Chances of a cluster of 3 or more passengers occurring in any of the coloured squares in a group of 20 individuals randomly self-selected from a typical planeload of 160 are very small. For an individual standing on the FC, the chances of another passenger being close (left, right, front, or behind) is only 4 out of 160 (2.5%). The likelihood reduces with each successive group because the numbers thin out.

The obvious exception is for people travelling together, couples, families, etc. They will form a cluster but of course are happy to be close together. A bonus is that they assist one another to stow their bags and get seated.

Q: Would an airline have to abandon its current system ?

A: Not necessarily, whatever system is used, it will always work better if passengers enter the plane in row order – which is of course what the Flying Carpet does.

Q: Can airlines still offer priority boarding to certain passengers?

A: Yes, and what’s more this is mandated in some countries by government regulations for passengers with special needs – elderly, disabled, pregnant women, mothers with babies – to be first to board.

As well as these categories many airlines offer priority boarding to certain passengers who wish to be first aboard - business class, privileges, frequent fliers, military personnel, etc..

No problem, whatever way passengers are selected, it will be quicker and easier for them if they assemble on the Flying Carpet on their way to the plane.

Q: What happens if passengers don’t comply?

A: There will always be mavericks or rebels who want to buck the system, but one or two per group don’t really have an adverse effect on the Flying Carpet. Thankfully, the great majority of people are more than happy to abide by a system that is seen as sensible, efficient, and fair, not to mention faster with less hassle. This can be seen in the video of the St Petersburg trials where one man didn’t comply, but all the others did, especially one woman who did a little hopscotch dance on the carpet.

Cooperative behaviour by passengers using common sense to overcome problems was also observed by Menkes van den Breil who analysed hours of video recordings of passengers boarding at LA airport.

People are ‘hard-wired’ to respect boundaries whether on roads and footpaths, in gardens and buildings, or on sporting fields - tennis, cricket, football, etc.. Put a line on the ground and people will follow it, such as those painted on the floors of hospitals, government offices, and airports. They are a very effective means of enabling people to find their way, much appreciated and accepted by the general public.

Possibly the best example of this is on Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington racecourse where a crowd of 100,000 move about readily on the lawn between the grandstand, betting ring, bar, mounting yard, etc., by walking between pairs of white lines painted on the grass. How well it works was graphically shown in a video sequence shot from a helicopter. It happens spontaneously; there are few signs or explanations, people just comply instinctively.

Q: Isn’t it passengers with oversize bags that cause the delays?

A: Yes, big bags certainly cause bottlenecks which disrupt most boarding methods. But that doesn’t happen with the Flying Carpet; being in row order inside the plane nobody needs to wait for slow-coaches struggling to stow their bags. Passengers in row order, spaced comfortably apart, are unaffected by slow-coaches

Q: Wouldn’t it be better to use some sort of projection or electronic screens on the floor?

A: No, the large numbers on the Flying Carpet are highly visible and the pattern is logical and easy to follow. Much cheaper too - keep It simple.

Brazilian airline Azul has tried projecting top-down moving colour-coded images containing seat numbers on the floor of the departure for passengers to follow as they proceed to the gate. As well as lining up a moving queue of passengers in optimum order for efficient boarding, the numbers are spaced well apart to impose social distancing. The sequence is based on either WILMA or the Steffen system of alternating half-rows and is said to reduce boarding time by 25%, which is about the same as these methods achieve without expensive laser projection.

Like most methods it involves regimentation, where passengers must come forward in a predetermined order, and raises the problem of splitting up couples/partners/families. A lot depends upon the passengers (a) understanding and (b) complying, and is vulnerable to “cattle crushes” forming whereby passenger surge forward crowding the gate.

Q: Is there another way that the Flying Carpet system could be improved?

A: Maybe, one possibility is to include Windows First. That would avoid the need for already seated aisle seat passengers having to get up to let middle or window seat passengers in.

The best way to do this would be either to call these passengers first or, divide them into two groups before boarding begins. Whichever method is used, travelling companions in the same row should be allowed to accompany window seat passengers. This avoids splitting up couples, partners, families.

One third of seats in single-aisle planes are windows and given that around half the passengers in any flight have travelling companions, the above groups would each have about half the total.

This might make a slight improvement, but with passengers being in row order via the Flying Carpet, the main cause of congestion has already been eliminated. A major feature of the FC is that it avoids regimentation, so dividing passengers into two groups would be a backward step.

Best not to complicate the process, keep it simple,