Evaluating the influence of passenger behaviour on aircraft boarding strategies using multi-agent systems

Rizzo, Davide (2009). Evaluating the influence of passenger behaviour on aircraft boarding strategies using multi-agent systems. Student dissertation for The Open University module M801 MSc in Software Development Research Dissertation.

Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001608e


The efficiency of passenger boarding, especially for short-haul flights, can have a big impact on airline profitability and passenger satisfaction. Several boarding techniques are employed or have been proposed, while simulations and analytical models have been used to compare their performance. The aim of this project was to explore the influence on six boarding techniques of “disturbances” caused by three types of passenger behaviours: choosing the wrong seat, boarding before or after the correct call, and trying to board with the other members of a travelling party. A boarding simulator based on intelligent agents was developed and used to test the influence of such behaviours. The simulator is based on the JADE multi-agent platform and models each passenger as an autonomous software agent, running in a separate thread. The aeroplanes, all typical short-haul single-aisle models, are represented as a regular grid of locations, either seats or aisle segments. The simulator was tested against published boarding times drawn from other simulations (Van Landeghem and Beuselinck 2002) and from observations of actual boarding processes (Kimes and Young 1997). Though the exact boarding times were not reproduced, the relative performance of different boarding methods generally agreed with published data. The simulator was then used to measure the robustness of the selected boarding methods against varying degrees of disturbances from passenger behaviours. Robustness was defined as low sensitivity to the effects of a disturbance. The main result of this project was that, while no boarding method is fully robust against all the disturbances taken into account, the so-called longitudinal boarding strategies (boarding groups spanning a large portion of the fuselage, like windows-middle-aisle and reverse pyramid) performed better than the other methods in every situation, and are therefore to be preferred. This agrees with previous results (Ferrari and Nagel 2005) but under a wider range of conditions.

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