Managing Security Checkpoint Queuing Wait Times: learning the lessons from the likes of Disney

Queuing theories and the management of wait time in the retail and service industries have been well researched and documented over the past thirty years. Restaurants, banks, hotels and theme parks have developed and applied queuing concepts and innovative wait time management practices to create additional value for their industry and for the customers they serve. Could similar approaches be adapted to airports’ security checkpoints to manage wait time more effectively and to explore venues to deliver a better passenger experience? Yves Duguay reviews some of the ideas that have been developed and compares them to best current practices found at some international airports. He concludes by proposing that an effective and efficient management of queues and wait time constitute an additional source of security and commercial value that can coexist at security checkpoints.

Security screening is about meeting security imperatives while attempting to deliver a great experience at the lowest possible cost. Until recently, there was much talk about passenger experience, but very little was done concretely. Thankfully the situation is changing as many airports and screening authorities are now realising the importance and the benefits of investing in security checkpoints.

Queuing and wait time management are about striking a balance: “a waiting time that customers find acceptable while keeping utilisation reasonably high is thus of critical operational importance”.1
This balancing act is of the upmost importance, considering the importance of wait time as a key predictor of customer satisfaction: “waits involve managing two major customer issues, namely, how long people actually wait and how long they think they are waiting”.

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