Back in 2008, I reported a rather interesting (at least, to me) use of some of the techniques from statistics and physics to find the most optimum boarding method onto an airplane. This study was done purely via mathematical modeling. Of course, being physicists/scientists, just having a model isn't enough. One has to verify it.
Now come a report whereby the author of that original paper and others have done an experimental study various methods of boarding an airplane.
Abstract: We report the results of an experimental comparison of different airplane
boarding methods. This test was conducted in a mock 757 fuselage, located on a
Southern California soundstage, with 12 rows of six seats and a single aisle.
Five methods were tested using 72 passengers of various ages. We found a
significant reduction in the boarding times of optimized methods over
traditional methods. These improved methods, if properly implemented, could
result in a significant savings to airline companies.
I would say that airlines such as Southwest could learn quite a bit from this study, since they have such a short turn-around time for their airplanes.
And I love it when there's a follow up to a study such as this.