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A whole rethink of passenger flight.

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A whole rethink of passenger flight.

Old 31st Jul 2012, 04:50
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A whole rethink of passenger flight.

Inspired by some other threads, I think it's time to talk about a complete rethink of the way we process passengers and design airports.

First thing that pops to mind is - why on earth don't we check in our luggage, do security and passports at our gate? This would save everyone time and need fewer people to administer, as well. Not only that, you'd need less infrastructure and fewer baggage handlers, as the stuff is only going to the aircraft that's 30ft away. And, all of a sudden, we could now have nice open airports where we could hang with our non-traveling families/friends, have tearfelt goodbyes until it's time to board. You'd avoid the division between the "sucky, bad, crap airport shops/restaurant before the security check that no one wants to use because they want to get security over and done with" and the (sometimes, not always) nicer "not so sucky bad shops/restaurants after the security checks" - why have two separate infrastructures selling the same old crap on both side of some mad security line when a single one could do it?

Any other ideas?

Last edited by AdamFrisch; 31st Jul 2012 at 06:24.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 07:38
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Doing the Checkin, baggage handling and security check for one individual flight at the dedicated gate would quickly become a logistic nightmare.

For each departing flight, You would need the following:

To process the checkin,
-at least one checkin agent; more if many passengers are expected and excessive queues are to be avoided;
-the required equipment; i. e. computer systems and desks;
-sufficient space for all the passengers to queue up in front of those desks; and we are talking about three-figure numbers.

For the security control,
-at least one security checkpoint, equipped with a metal detector, body scanner, hand baggage X-ray, possibly explosive detector and a secluded space for special searches; this again in larger numbers, should You want to avoid excessive queuing.

For baggage handling,
-scales, belts and associated equipment;
-a dedicated X-ray or other scanning unit;
-a loading system.

Now, this has several downsides. The following spring to mind:

-You will need to keep a whole set of all this equipment ready and running at every gate. If at one gate, one of these systems breaks down, it will easily render the entire gate unusable.

-Processing the passengers takes time; assume one minute per passenger for a whole wide body aircraft load and You will easily need several hours to get it all done on one or two counters. A boarding time that long is simply unrealistic, so a enclosed waiting area to keep the passengers in after checkin and before boarding would be a must in that case - again massively increasing space requirements in the terminal.

-You will need a whole set of staff for every single gate: 1 for checkin, 2 or 3 for security control and also 3 or 4 loaders - so 6 to 8 employees for one single checkin counter. They will need to travel between gates when one flight is closed and the next one is to be opened; restricting their effective working time in the process. And the whole set of staff is needed irrespective of the passenger numbers on board; a Beech 1900 with 5 pax or an A380 with several 100 of them takes at least one whole set here.

-For transit flights, coming from an inbound flight, You do not normally need to pass a security check again, as You arrived from a sterile area already.

On the other hand, running a dedicated checkin area for all the flights, one central security checkpoint for everyone entering the sterile area containing the gates and then staffing the gates with only 1 or 2 employees for boarding and minor reseating allows for easily sharing capacity, as both the B190 and the A380 passengers will pass the same area and just go to the most convenient, open counter/checkpoint. So it saves complexity, time and also staff to run the terminal like this.

Vienna airport has tried to install a passenger security checkpoint in front of every finger a few years ago in order not to lose too much space by installing a central large checkpoint (this would have restricted the shop area). This has resulted in massive queues in front of every single gate, frustrated passengers and generally rather long boarding times. In the recently opened new terminal, this error has not been repeated and they have returned to the well-proven way of having one single security check area.

Last edited by Tu.114; 31st Jul 2012 at 07:43.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 07:59
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I think TU114 has covered it pretty well as to why your idea is not practical, at best. As for retail within airports, why do some aviation enthusiasts think that shops are a waste of time and that nobody uses them? The shopping experience, contrary to what many here think, is crucial when people form an impression of the airport. Many Leisure travellers, who make up the majority of passengers from UK airports, actually want retail in their airport experience. On a more anecdotal level meanwhile, shops at many of the airports I use appear to be busy and the fact they're there suggests the business must be viable. There is an argument high end retail isn't always necessary but in my opinion they do no harm to the airport experience.

At the end of the day not everyone likes to sit at a big glass window watching a 767 being turned around, how ever much we might enjoy that.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 08:06
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Apart from what has already been mentioned :

The majority of your airport becomes landside, i.e. unsecured, if the checks are only performed at the gates. This increases the chances of a security breach or attack, and also the number of people and thus the space required as you will get non-flyers taking up space.

Ticketing and passenger assistance points need to be centralised too, otherwise the number of trained staff and computers terminals needs to be multiplied.

So whilst Adam is right about the need to change things, what we currently have is probably the least bad. Where I feel a big change is needed is in the boarding process which seems hugely time-wasting, but again having seen various alternatives in use I suspect that there is no magic bullet.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 13:16
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CDG is set up with a half way house of this: There are 'big fingers' that support about 6 gates each and the security is at the point you leave the central rotunda for the big finger. The queues there are of folks that might be running with minutes to spare and those planning to use the shops biz lounges and open space at the end of the big finger. At least, that's how I remember it as I have avoided CDG for over ten years!

However, a rethink would be a nice idea. Unfortunately, it's not going to happen as we are going to continue to build on last year's model and try to accomodate each new politician inspired instruction. Each country and architect think they know best.

Last edited by PAXboy; 31st Jul 2012 at 18:07. Reason: Typo
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 13:36
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retail rentals are a major income stream for airport operators which in turn reduces the costs of an airline using the airport and it follows that it reduces the ticket price you pay to travel.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 17:13
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To process the checkin,
-at least one checkin agent; more if many passengers are expected and excessive queues are to be avoided;
-the required equipment; i. e. computer systems and desks;
-sufficient space for all the passengers to queue up in front of those desks; and we are talking about three-figure numbers.
We would completely eliminate the boarding scan and all those queues, as they would happen when you check in to the gate. Today we queue 4 to 5 times - check in, baggage drop, security, immigration/customs and finally boarding. You would save man hours by reducing that down to 1 queue for all of it, I'm sure of that. The equipment could be mobile or portable and the space problem is just a design matter. Not all flights are A380s - we're talking 100 people here, same as you see at any gate. What would the difference be - they're queueing in front of the gate waiting to board today as well, no difference.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 18:10
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dudleydick
... and it follows that it reduces the ticket price you pay to travel.
Uummmm, I have to say that, after observing capitalism at work for 50+ years, I don't think that it does necessarily follow!!
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Old 1st Aug 2012, 11:22
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Berlin Tegel comes to mind from the description in the OP, which is indeed living on borrowed time. Each gate has its own check-in desks, individual security channel, immigration desk for arrivals and seating area for departures.

Amsterdam and Prague are two examples of large airports in Europe, where non-Schengen departures involve security screening at the gates. This is mainly to make non-Schengen transfers as easy as possible (i.e. passengers can enter the terminal and proceed directly to the nest gate, rather than being sent to a centralised area).

Last edited by EuroWings; 1st Aug 2012 at 11:23.
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Old 1st Aug 2012, 14:16
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Amsterdam and Prague are two examples of large airports in Europe, where non-Schengen departures involve security screening at the gates. This is mainly to make non-Schengen transfers as easy as possible.
And because each of the non-Schengen destinations and airlines seem to have their own rules for security screening... I recall a transfer in London where I met two security checks, The standard UK one and then a gate check for boarding an airline from the USA. Add that to the security check I already went through in Amsterdam...
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Old 1st Aug 2012, 14:24
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The equipment could be mobile or portable

Have you seen those baggage x-ray machines? It would take a 2+1/2 ton truck to move one.

Take an airport that runs 60 flights an hour. Under the present centralized system gates are open about half an hour so we'll say you need 30 gate agents. But we've only got 10 security, baggage and immigration staff because everyone comes to them over a period of time before the flight. Under your plan the gate would have to be open (and staffed) much longer to complete all the events at the gate. Boarding is just 15-20 seconds flashing your boarding pass under the scanner. Checking your bags (and collecting the fee), security and immigration each take minutes. I say it could take an hour to process 200 people. So now you need 60 of each of those job titles. That's not saving any man hours.
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Old 2nd Aug 2012, 15:41
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Having been involved in a number of airport project both here and overseas I think most aviation enthusiasts seriously underestimate the need and indeed client requirments for the retail space. As variouse posters have said this retail enviroment contributes greatly to airport profitability and they fight tooth and nail to maximise it. There are some intresting computer models worked up by variouse airports showing what shops, and what passengers and flights produce the greater revenue. You will see more and more terminals evolving into the "mall type" although food outlets and lounges still prefer to have airside views. The prospect of clogging this space with passengers with bags etc would fill my clients with dread !.
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Old 3rd Aug 2012, 02:10
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I think you just take Changi airport and replicate it everywhere else.

I've never had a bag lost there, nor had my bag miss the connecting flight when I was transiting. Now I live here, I have never had to wait more than a few minutes for my bags to come off the belt.

Immigration is quick and efficient, even for non-Singaporeans / residents.

It is light and airy as a building, even T1 which is pretty old by now.
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Old 3rd Aug 2012, 23:00
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Rush2112, may I suggest that the success you relate is only 50% (at most) the systems? The rest is the staff and the mgmt.

We don't have them in the UK and not in many other parts of the world either.
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Old 4th Aug 2012, 01:45
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Well, it may indeed be half due to the staff and management, so it begs the question why are other airports' staff and management not as good as Singaporeans?

If you were going to replicate Changi then the staff and management training would need to be replicated as well - that may be a challenge I know!
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