Stand in Line Forever to be Helped Quickly

The Innovation Fallacy
September 21, 2018
‘You Have to Take a Shot’
January 30, 2019

During 2018 I traveled from multiple airports in North America, Europe and Asia. With only a few exceptions, most airports have something in common that is just hard to watch: Passengers standing in line to check-in and/or drop off a bag at a staffed desk with other check-in desks left unused and nowhere else to go.

Stand in Line Forever to be Helped Quickly 

Over the past year, I had many conversations about self-service bag drop with airlines and airports. It allows passengers to check-in luggage themselves. Discussions quickly turn into a transaction time comparison of airport staff versus machine. But how important is a 1-minute transaction after having a passenger queue for 20 minutes? 

Full Service by a Human Machine

With passengers waiting, airport check-in staff only aim at processing passengers and their bags as quickly as possible. They are humans who act as transactional processors and behave like machines. Self-service enables airport staff to engage in human interaction if so desired by the customer by leaving the transaction to the machine.

Fast, Easy and What Else?

Self-service bag drop is in fact also faster and sometimes easier than the process at a staffed counter. That is why 70% of passengers want it. By adding biometric technology, such as facial recognition, automating the passenger ID check increases efficiencies even more. However, one thing could eliminate queues altogether. 


It is not economically viable for airlines to rent more -or staff more- check-in positions to eliminate queues. But unused desks can be turned into self-service bag drop points, which can be commonly used by multiple airlines. It is having that increased availability that eliminates queuing. 

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