Every day I wait in queues. On the way to work, I stand in a bus queue. Shopping for dinner, I end up in a supermarket queue. You can’t even escape queues when you’re on holiday…
Which? Travel’s latest investigation takes a look at airport queues. When online check-in was introduced some years ago, it was supposed to put an end to the days when the first experience of your holiday was a massive queue at the airport. But check-in queues are still with us – and a third of Which? members list them as one of the most frustrating aspects of air travel.
The benefits of bag drop?
Even if you have checked in online and just have a suitcase to drop off, you can’t avoid waiting in line at the airport. Our recent survey found that queues at the bag drop desk can be just as infuriating as the one at check-in, with average waiting times being as long as 21 minutes for an EasyJet flight at Manchester Terminal 1.
Our survey also revealed Stansted airport consistently had the longest waits for check-in and bag drop, with an average wait of 20min and 16min respectively. Have a look at the average slowest and fastest waiting times in our graphic:
On the way home from a holiday in Greece a couple of months ago, I spent over two hours in queues. The first – to check in for my flight – snaked around the whole check-in area of the airport, as well as outside. After about an hour and 20 minutes I made it to the desk, only to be given a boarding pass and instruction to join yet another queue to drop off my bag.
Fortunately, that one moved a bit quicker, but I still had to wait for around 30 minutes before handing over my luggage. Then it was off to stand in the queue to go through security. Hot, a bit bothered, it wasn’t the best end to what had otherwise been a fantastic week away.
Straight queue or snake queue?
According to the expert we spoke to for our investigation (who advised the government on how to reduce immigration queues prior to the London Olympics), you can reduce wait times by being in the right type of queue.
Picture yourself in a supermarket. If you’re in a straight-line queue, you’ll apparently get through the check-out quicker. That’s because customers don’t waste time like they may do in a ‘snake’ queue, where people follow each other around a line that doubles-back on itself. In the separate straight queues you don’t walk around, or look up and down to see where the next available till is. And the straight system self regulates because customers join the shortest queue.
That may be the theory, but it doesn’t always work for me. More often than not, I find myself in the straight supermarket queue behind the person with hours to spare. They are chatting to friends on the phone, taking their time packing their bags… and all the while I’m noticing other shoppers on their way back home, while I’m going nowhere!
I much prefer being in a ‘snake’ queue. As long as everyone is on the ball, no one at the head of the queue dilly dallies too much. Even better if there’s a supervisor at the front, directing people to appropriate counters. Which type of queue works best for you? Do you find airport queues are just as bad as they’ve always been?