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Airline Travel Remains a Frustrating Experience

Airline apps and fancier airport terminals can’t mask the fact that traveling by plane is more of a hassle than ever.

Spencer Chin

June 21, 2023

5 Min Read
Security check-in lines continue to be a major cause of delays at airports.EvgeniyShkolenko/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

As an editor covering technology, I have over the years gone to my share of industry shows and conferences. While I have witnessed leaps and bounds in the products and technologies I’ve reported on, I can’t say the same for the main mode I’ve used to travel to these venues, that is, the airplane.

Earlier today, I traveled the westbound leg of a transcontinental flight, and what should have been a relatively pain-free journey was marred, this time, by delays at the outbound airport in New York City, namely, John F. Kennedy. Mind you, thanks to airline apps and messaging I knew beforehand the flight was leaving on time and was able to check in the night before. None of the flight cancellation hassles I had flying back from the west coast over a year ago. I downloaded the boarding pass onto my smart phone and printed out a hardcopy for backup. I also arrived at the airport almost two hours before (okay, one hour and 50 minutes) before my flight was due to take off.

Secret Security Area?

While I usually get to the gate in plenty of time, in this instance the early arrival was needed. In the current millennium, one has to go through a gauntlet of airline security before being allowed to proceed to the gate. This time, the line at the security area, located in relatively new airport terminal, barely moved. I was waiting for 15 to 20 minutes, when, without any explanation, security personnel herded me and a bunch of other travelers down several flights of escalators, to what almost looks like a rarely used security checkpoint. While I thought this would speed security screening, I spent at least 20 minutes waiting just to get screened, partially due to the fact that only one area was manned.

While airport security have never been cheerful, this time the security screeners seemed over the top. I put my carry-on suitcase in one bin and my laptop and other belongings in another. The screener was then upset because my jacket obscured a small part of my laptop which might have obscured part of the X-ray. Okay, I rearranged everything and the bin went through.

After going through the X-ray and frisking (this time not just the normal pat-down but a more vigorous body search assault, I proceeded to reunite with my belongings. The laptop and all of my personal belongings were there, intact, in one bin. But where was the bin with my carry-on suitcase? I asked the screener at the end of the line why my other bin was not there, and she was annoyed I would ask that question, which was fair because the bins should have been next to one another. It was only after another 5 minutes of waiting and angst that my suitcase bin showed up. The security person made no attempt to investigate.

Ironically, there is a polling machine at the end of the security area where passengers are asked to rate (anonymously of course) the security personnel and experience. You can bet that I gave them the lowest rating possible.

Good Shoes Needed

With that adventure over, it was time to go to the gate. This involved 15 plus more minutes of going down even more escalators and moving ramps. I made it the boarding area with maybe 15 minutes to spare, which to me is cutting it a bit close. Thankfully I was able to move fast as I was breaking in a new set of athletic footwear.

The airport terminal at JFK I was in was constructed purportedly with greater passenger comfort and convenience in mind. Yes, it is expansive, well-lit, and has an endless array of shop and eateries. But is all that worth a long, seemingly endless walk from the security gate to the boarding area? All I want to do is board a plane. And on top of that, when you are allowed to go through the gate to board the plane, it’s not just a short ramp;  in this case, I had to traverse at least three ramps (about another 5 minutes) to get onto the plane.

While all the walking is good exercise, I feel bad for those with physical issues who need to go through this.

A Blueprint for Future Airport Terminals?

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into fancy new airline terminals in many cities that are supposed to enhance passenger comfort and convenience. But how much should passengers endure in the interim? In early February, I went through LAX Airport on Los Angeles on way to another industry conference.  Due to extensive reconstruction there, the rideshare pickup areas were not right outside the terminal, but away from the terminals in a designated outdoor area, which one could only reach via a shuttle bus. Problem is, there were no signs indicating that was the case, and only by quizzing passenger waiting on a line did I find out the rideshare pickup was separate.

It was at least a 20 minute wait for the shuttle bus to come to go to the rideshare area to hail a car, followed by probably another 10 minutes on the bus itself. Of course, once in the rideshare pick-up area, one has to hope the rideshare driver could accurately locate you amidst the chaos of fellow passengers and other rideshare vehicles converging in the same area. All told, the time getting my rideshare exceeded an hour.


Endless Summer at the Airport?

With the peak travel season just beginning and the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly over, the pent-up demand for travel has led to packed planes and rising airfares. Airlines which suffered massive revenue losses during the pandemic, are anxious to recuperate their losses. But early indications point to a long summer of inconveniences and frustrations for airline passengers, whether they are traveling for business or pleasure.

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor with Design News, covering the electronics beat.

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