I recently found myself flying an airline where I had no elite status. I didn’t have their app on my phone, so I tried to use the kiosk. It wasn’t working, so I had to pick a line. Fortunately it was a small airport, not that many passengers, have you seen economy check-in lines?
The way the airport was set up it wasn’t a single queue and multiple agents serving the queue, it was multiple separate lines. It was more like a supermarket checkout scenario than what I usually see at the airport.
So I had to put my supermarket strategizing on.
- Don’t pick a line where the agent isn’t there, or there are two agents. If the agent is gone they’re probably talking to a supervisor about a problem. If two agents are present they’re probably talking about the problem together. Either way, there’s a problem, and the line will invariably move slowly.
- Avoid inexperienced travelers, or pick the line with fewer of them. If the luggage is wrapped in plastic, if they’ve come with an entourage (one person has luggage but lots of people in the group), you want to avoid them. They’ll take longer, and they’ll be interacting with people other than the agent working check-in.
- That doesn’t mean groups are bad. A single group traveling together will usually be on one reservation, their check-in will go faster than the same number of people traveling separately.
You’ll go through a similar process when picking a security line, too, if there’s more than one. Even going through priority security (though often not Precheck) at a major airport you’ll still have to pick which nude-o-scope and x-ray machine line to use.
I try to size up the line based on limited information, so pick the shortest one. And like many other prejudices, I invariably get it long. And wait. And wait. And wait.
So this is what it’s like not to be a frequent flyer, I thought.
I didn’t have to check a bag, fortunately. If I did, without status and without the airline’s co-brand credit card, I’d be trying to take it through security anyway. Because even though I’d have to gate check it most likely, I wouldn’t be charged. Or — since we’re talking generically here, if an airline other than Spirit was going to charge me it wouldn’t be more than paying the fee upfront.
How do you pick which check-in and security lines to use?