Thursday, April 30, 2015

Evolution of checks in airports

Airports are playing a major role in my life in the few months. Of all the journeys I have taken in the past few months, most are related to work while a few have been for personal reasons. Right from the day when I boarded the first plane tugging my mother, the air travel has changed. The check-in process was a nightmare. The security personnel at the old Cochin airport (timeshare with the Navy) ravaged the carefully packed suitcases. The experience was unnerving. As a result of this traumatic experience, I was shocked during my first flight as an adult when no-one asked me to open my suitcases for creating a similar mess of the orderliness in the name of security. The big scanners have made life easier.

There was still a major issue. You spent a great deal of time in front of the check-in queue with a physical ticket. Now, the physical ticket is on its last leg. E-ticket or a printout is fast replacing the old physical ticket. This replacement has made it easier for us to buy a ticket eliminating the delay of postal services. In addition, we can defer the decision to buy a little longer. After the e-Ticket, the check-in process evolved. With the introduction of Web check-in, we do not have to hurry to the airport. There are separate counters for Web check-in that are shorter and faster. Have you been to London Heathrow airport? I regularly use this airport. Most of the time, I have only a laptop and a carry-on bag. As I have completed the Web check-in from home, I don't even have to go to any of the airline counters. I walk straight to the security gate, present my boarding pass stored on my mobile to the scanner installed at the gate and wait for my facial scan. There is no human interaction. Even though the whole process seems like a dream so far, there are many things which needs improvement.

There are instances when you are not travelling light. Hence you need to approach the check-in counter to drop your bags. There is always one counter dedicated to baggage drop related to Web check-in. In the old days, one counter was sufficient. There were not many who were performing web check-in and hence this could double up for taking care of other types of passengers during rush hours. These days, everyone is doing a Web check-in and hence one counter can become a bottleneck. When there is a bottleneck for the traditional check-in counters, the airport officials quickly address it by opening up the first class and privilege member counters to handle the traffic. This method is not adopted for Web check-in.

Have you compared how two operations namely check-in and security check has evolved over time? While the former is becoming easier and less time consuming, the security check have become intrusive and tedious process. Every time I am traveling, I fear they are going to ask me to strip before going through the metal detector. Now, we not only empty our wallets but also remove our shoes, belts and jackets. In a way, this serves as a reminder reeking of irony and sarcasm. No matter the progress we make, there are tons left for improvement.

Tags: Musings, Airport, Checks

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