For anyone that has been late for a flight and needed to check a bag, they know how painful it can be to stand in line while someone in front of you takes fifteen minutes to check their bag. I have always found it interesting that I can stand in line and watch ten people take a good 5-10 minutes each, yet I walk up and am out of there in under a minute. Whether you are late or not, it is painful how long some people take.
Alaska Airlines is now making that process simpler by allowing passengers to tag their own bags. Much the way that we have been printing our own boarding passes for years, they will now let you tag your bags and hand them to the TSA agent. Apparently, in many other countries they will let you do the whole thing unsupervised, but naturally TSA wants to maintain their job security, so they have to watch you.
This was one of those things that made me go “duh” when I read about it, because it just seemed to be such on obvious way to save time in the whole process. According to an interview Jeff Butler of Alaska Airlines did with The Cranky Flier, it has actually shaved 30% off the time it takes passengers to be processed, which is a significant enough that Alaska is working to make this a reality at all of the airports they serve.
Unfortunately, TSA is once again trying to make it as difficult as possible. The above mentioned article goes into more detail about the whole process Alaska went through to get permission, and it is pretty ridiculous if you ask me. Not only did they have to prove the safety of their program, they must reapply for permission to implement it every time they want to roll it out somewhere new.
Time is quickly becoming one of the biggest assets in aviation. People want, and in some cases need, to be able to flow through an airport as quickly as possible from the time they pull up, until they drive away after arrival. That is why we see all of these new programs to get you through security faster, and why airlines have invested so much money on kiosks that allow you to print your own boarding pass.
A 30% reduction in processing time is a big enough benefit that every airline will likely look at this option, if they aren’t already. Maybe that is the push that TSA needs to streamline the process and make it easier for airlines to use this new concept.
I remember as a kid being able to walk into the airport, get through security, and be at the gate in fifteen minutes or so, but now I have to plan to be at the airport at least an hour early if I don’t want to miss my flight, and I live in a relatively small city. Speeding up the whole process would be a benefit to everyone involved, and hopefully TSA will not be the speed bump that prevents everyone from taking advantage of it.