Ask most British travellers what part of their cheap holidays is the most stressful and most will surely mention airport queuing – whether its the check-in queues snaking all over the departure lounges at Gatwick and Heathrow or the massive lines that build up at the security gates, full of fuming passengers taking off their shoes and belts or snarling at the person in front of them who has neglected to take their laptop out of their luggage.
This week British Airways announced its latest blow in the struggle against airport queuing, with a new “Fast Travel” service at London Gatwick Airport. The initiative, supported by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), involves the installation of new technology at BA’s check-in kiosks.
With the new tech in place, BA passengers at Gatwick will soon be able to print out their luggage tags as well as having their travel documents automatically checked. The airline said that this will drastically speed up and simplify the check-in experience and enable passengers to get to their flights more quickly. IATA certainly seems to think so, having just awarded BA a rare “Gold” award – the first time that a UK carrier has won such an accolade and only the second time that any airline anywhere has been honoured in this way.
BA is also the major player at London Heathrow, where queues at the security gates have become a very vexed question of late – so much so in fact that the Civil Aviation Authority has ordered the airport to pay airlines £500,000 following false claims over queuing times at the checkpoints. The CAA monitored the queuing times and found that they were longer than the airport had previously reported, especially at Terminal 5.
Gatwick Airport was also rapped after a similar investigation at the North Terminal found that on many occasions it also gave a different figure to queueing times than that logged by auditors.
Both airports have agreed to separate staff responsible for managing queues from those who measure queuing times, and consult airlines and the CAA before drafting new queue measurement contracts.