There is a good chance that in the past week even with COVID regulations in place, you’ve waited in a line – whether it’s at the drive-thru, in traffic, or at the grocery store. We spend a good portion of our lives just waiting.
There are numerous existing statistics that reveal we spend anywhere from five to seven years waiting in lines in our lifetime. Compare that to the averages of spending six years of our lives consuming food and drink and another four years doing chores around the house, suddenly waiting in line gains a whole new meaning as it can truly affect our quality of life.
Most of us hate waiting, it’s boring or even annoying if you’re impatient, but why do we do it? “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting anyway,” American artist, Andy Warhol, wrote in his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. “Never getting in is the most exciting, but after that, waiting to get in is the most exciting.”
When considering the science behind waiting and the art of queuing (when someone really gets it right, like perfect one-person lines in Japan, it’s an artform), no one thinks about these two factors more than Disney. Every year, millions of guests wait for hours and hours to get onto a ride at Disney World. Typically, the sight of a long line is stress inducing, so each ride has a serpentine queue (common queue type for airports).
Serpentine queues create a bit of an illusion to how long the line truly is. There are also a lot of distractions for the guests while they are waiting (Space Mountain has over 80 game stations before the ride).
Thinking back to Warhol’s quote, people wait because it’s the prize at the end that makes all of that “wasted” time worth it.
So, with all that information, what can airports learn from Disney? Don’t expect game stations or entertaining distractions anytime soon, but the security checkpoints could definitely use a redesign. Depending on where you live, when you arrive at an airport and go through the screening process, it can all look very different.
A great example when mentioning automation is what is happening in Europe – automation is everywhere. Most airports allow you to self-scan multiple times throughout the journey. Starting at baggage drop to security to boarding.
This is in contrast to the U.S, where a lot of the journey is still very manual and it is typical for a person to check your ID and boarding pass. Also, many European airports will assign passengers to a specific letter, colour, or number which represents a space on the conveyer belt when they are putting their belongings to get screened. This tends to reduce the amount of bottlenecks that occur because a larger amount of people can load up their bins at the same time.
The security screening process really hasn’t changed much since 2001 when everything was reformed following 9/11, and passengers then had to have their belongings scanned and walk through a metal detector.
But since COVID-19, the conversation about the future of queuing at airports has been a hot topic. Here’s one major way to revolutionize how airports queue.
Airports have been trying to utilize every inch/centimeter of space available for quite some time now, the more passengers they can fit comfortably, the more passengers they can serve. Airlines, such as Delta, were some of the first stakeholders to put these types of queues into practice by notifying passengers when their seat is boarding on the airline’s native mobile app.
How this practice could be adopted in the security checkpoint would work in a few different ways:
By implementing this approach in the security checkpoints, it could help to alleviate unsafe and uncomfortable landside crowding as well as increase spend at the retail shops pre-screening.
So far, there haven’t been many airports that have taken on this challenge to disrupt the security checkpoints. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, who recently put out an RFP looking for vendors who could implement virtual queuing at their checkpoint, will be one of the first in the United States to pilot this type of technology. It will be exciting to see how this project turns out for them and who else will follow in their footsteps and offer a different way to queue.
At the end of the day, the reason why it’s so important for airports to keep evolving their processes is to keep passengers happy.
When they can spend less time waiting in lines, and more time relaxing, shopping, eating, and drinking, airports could just possibly rival Disney as “the most magical place on earth”.
The article was provided by a third party and, as such, the views expressed therein and/or presented are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of ACI, its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.