Thanks to modern inventions such as ATMS, self-checkout lanes in grocery stores and you-pump gas stations, modern day citizens don’t stand in line very often.
And when they do, it is often willingly at a place like Disney World where a thrilling ride or a charming come-to-life cartoon character is the reward.
That makes waiting in line at airport security checkpoints all the worse.
And fixing the current problems all the more challenging.
I outlined some of the solutions being proposed in a story this week for NBC News, starting with the TSA’s own ten-point list of fixes:
1. Maximizing the use of overtime for TSA officers
2. Hiring more TSA officers, including another 768 this year
3. Additional K-9 teams
4. Allowing Federal Security Directors at airports to use more flexibility in training TSA staff for screening
5. Developing specific plans to cut down on wait times at some of the nation’s busiest airports
6. Reducing carry-on luggage (size and number)
7. Asking airlines for help in non-security tasks
8. Doing more research and development into technology that will increase passenger flow through security
9. Encourage travelers to sign up for TSA PreCheck
10. Working with Congress to get additional resources for the TSA
Some of these ideas are already being put into action and some – like the suggestion that airlines stop charging for checked bags – are getting pushback from airlines, which last year made $3.8 billion from checked bag fees.
Some airports have said they want to opt out of TSA and hire private contractors – who may or may not be better and faster – for checkpoint duties, but that process takes at least a year and, in the end, TSA still oversees the checkpoint operations.
Another idea being discussed is a reservation system for the security lines, much like Disney’s FastPass, which allows park visitors to reserve times for attractions and entertainment.
One airport — in Canada — says it’s already using a similar system with success.
Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International uses a SecurXpress program that sends passengers a text message containing an appointment time for going through a designated security line.
This helps the airport “modulate traffic at peak times and makes the whole process more seamless for everyone,” said YUL spokesman François-Nicolas Asselin, and is currently being used by up to 500 passengers a day.
Checkpoint reservation systems, and policies that allow families with small children and passengers in danger of missing their flights to move to the front of the line, could help ease tensions on airport security lines, said Richard Larson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who’s sometimes known as “Dr. Queue.”
But he says the circus entertainers, therapy ponies, live music and free snacks some airports are offering to those waiting in long checkpoints lines could backfire.
“It works for Disney in the amusement parks,” said Larson. But passengers who miss flights due to long checkpoint lines may end up being more furious “because they’ll feel like they were being distracted from what’s really important — getting on the plane.”