x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

App of the Week: Get in the airplane seat-picking driver's seat

It's not the only airplane seat-choosing application out there, but Jets is perhaps the most well-designed.

It turns out that astrophysicists, who spend most of their waking moments contemplating cosmic microwaves and interstellar dust, can get just as annoyed as we terra-firma-focused folk when it comes to trying to board a plane.

The only difference is that one of them, Jason Steffen from Chicago, seems to have enough dark matter lying dormant in his brain to solve the problem.

Now a mini-media sensation, Mr Steffen's time-saving plane-boarding theorem has been featured on everything from the web TV show This vs That to The Economist, the magazine that all the world's smartest people at least pretend to read.

Inside a mock fuselage, Mr Steffen proved that the optimal passenger-packing procedure involves first boarding every other window seat from the back (45, 43, 41, etc) - this gives everyone plenty of elbow room to stow carry-ons and sit down almost in unison. Then window seats in intervening rows (44, 42, 40, etc) would board - this pattern would continue for middle and aisle seats.

Using Steffan's method could cut boarding times in half, and could save airlines millions of dollars - but in reality, it would probably just mean we get to spend twice as much time staring out the window as crews finish loading checked bags into the belly of the plane.

The app

But the good news is you don't have to be a frequent-flying cosmologist to exercise some modicum of self-determination within the jet-setting herd. While it won't get you to your seat any faster, Jets (Dh11; iPhone) is a smartphone app that will give you all the objective data on it you will ever need.

The details

It's not the only seat-choosing application out there, but Jets is perhaps the most well-designed. It contains detailed seating charts for more than 540 types of aircraft used by all the major airlines (including Etihad Airways and Emirates). You can search for planes based on aircraft, airline or global region. You can also identify the plane type by flight number, but this requires an internet connection.

Once you find the appropriate seating chart, you will find colour-coded, numbered seats that you can tap for specific descriptions.

A recent search on Turkish Airlines Flight 869 on an Airbus A321, for example, found there was a big difference between seat 23C and 24C. While both are aisle seats, 23C is on the wrong side of a bulk head and doesn't recline, while 24C not only reclines but offers additional legroom.

True, 24C's tray table may come out of the armrest, and the passenger in 23C might deboard .25 seconds sooner than 24C, but those are small prices to pay for stretching out on a long flight.

After all, who said you had to be an astrophysicist to care about space?

Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at cbrandao@thenational.ae