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When you travel, do you ever wonder how you can be that person who is always ahead of the pack, even when things go awry? Hosts Vinod Viswalingam (@VViswalingam) and Geoff Dahl (@geoffdahl) are proud to present The Seat 1A Podcast.

Seat 1A aims to provide savvy travellers with advanced industry based knowledge to enhance the air travel experience and take off from the crowd. By arming you with an understanding of the systems, processes, rules and structures that define modern air travel, Seat 1A strives to give you the upper hand by examining real experiences from abroad.

Whether traveling in ultra-economy or first-class, with or without frequent flyer status, knowing how the operation works will keep you moving in front of the masses, especially when things don’t go as planned. Seat 1A provides tips and tricks on how to make your travel experience as smooth and efficient as possible. Our goal is that you'll be in Seat 1A all the time!

We have over 5 million miles of flying and over 10 years working for numerous airlines, enjoying all classes and cabins, and exploring airports on every continent. We're enthusiastic #avgeeks, with a keen interest in modern aviation trends and aim to share our knowledge in The Seat 1A Podcast. To learn more about who we are, check out Experience 010!

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Experience 035 Show Notes. Beating the queue. Lining up strategies at the airport. The Seat 1A Podcast.

Jul 19, 2020

Recorded 11 July 2020

Written by: Geoff Dahl & Vinod Viswalingam

Listen to this experience wherever you download your podcasts - including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, Google Podcasts, and Overcast.


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In this experience we look at the different queues and lineups that one experiences when at an airport and how to make the best of them.

In this era of COVID-19, people have settled into a new normal of queuing up. It goes hand-in-hand with the airline and airport experience. Please note that we will be putting this in the context of how things were, and it will be years before the airport returns to how it was.

When you arrive at the airport, are you able to go directly into the terminal, or is there curbside security for passengers? Who are the masses of people? Are they actually the passenger, or are they just well wishers?

Once you're inside the airport, we approach the check-in counter. This experience has changed a lot over the last ten to fifteen years. Have you checked in online? Are you just dropping a bag? Are you going to a self-serve kiosk (and waiting to see if it will actually work?) Or are you going to the regular check-in line? Who is going to serve you? What if you need to queue up to change your ticket? And are you within the cut-off times for baggage drop-off? If you're with a group, are you all co-ordinated? If you have a cart, take it with you after checking in!

Security and immigration – are there fast-track options available to you as a passenger? Don't forget that the fast-tracking starts when you check-in online. Is there a faster moving security checkpoint? Who's ahead of you in the queue? Why do security lines move so slowly in the US? Do you need to line up for an immigration exit queue?

Now on to boarding – what's the system your airline is using and what's the best way to board with that system? On the plane – we'll have a future experience for onboard etiquette.

You land, immigration, customs, and baggage claim at a new airport awaits you. How long should you expect to wait for immigration at some airports? Is there an arrival fast-track? Sometimes business arrival lines could be much busier than economy. How much time is the airline giving you to get processed? Are you collecting a bag, is there a tight connection? What about if you have to take an airport bus?

News Items:

  • flyertalk article "WestJet Utilizes Very Canadian Solution for Weather Issues".
  • article "Southwest Airlines CEO Expects ‘Brutal Low-Fare’ Competition".

If you have a story about queuing at the airport, stories of your lining up and waiting for your flight, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at




NEWS ITEMS | WestJet Utilizes Very Canadian Solution for Weather Issues (17 June 2020)
"...Canadian carrier WestJet is using some local ingenuity to protect aircraft from summer hail storms. To protect wing flaps from damage, engineers have installed hockey puck boards on parked airframes..." | Southwest Airlines CEO Expects ‘Brutal Low-Fare’ Competition (30 May 2020)
"...Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said on Friday he expects a “brutal low-fare” environment when traffic returns after coronavirus-induced restrictions ease.

'There are far more airplane seats right now, and there will be for some time, than there are customers,' he said in a video message..."



  • "In response to reduced passenger traffic caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, Frankfurt Airport will bundle all passenger handling operations in Terminal 1, effective April 7. From that date, passenger operations in FRA’s Terminal 2 will be suspended until further notice (affecting both Concourses D and E)."





  • What's in this experience. [00:00:59]
  • People have settled into a new normal of queuing. [00:01:12]
  • Queuing goes hand-in-hand with the airline and airport experience. [00:01:48]
  • This is put in a context of how it was, and it will be years until the airport is like it was. [00:02:03]
  • When you arrive at the airport. [00:04:10]
  • At some airports only passengers are allowed to enter the building. [00:04:34]
  • The curb can be a big crowding point. [00:04:59]
  • Analyze the crowd - are they all passengers, or just well-wishers? [00:05:56]
  • Going to the check-in counter. [00:06:31]
  • The check-in experience has changed a lot over the last 10-15 years. [00:06:50]
  • Country differences in queuing at counters. [00:07:20]
  • Multiple terms. Web check-in, fast bag drop, check-in assistance, ticketing assistance, "other". [00:08:37]
  • Bag drop. [00:08:49]
  • Bag drop agents may not have full check-in and change options available. [00:09:33]
  • Self-serve kiosks. [00:10:04]
  • Kiosks are in off-site locations like hotels. [00:11:39]
  • Web check-in. [00:12:39]
  • There's a fork in the road using web check-in to self bag drop or full interaction. [00:12:51]
  • Tip - if you're going into quick drop-off, make sure you have everything set up. [00:13:38]
  • The number of kiosks that Vinod has wanted to smash since they're not working. [00:14:09]
  • Don't expect blitzing speed in the regular check-in line. [00:14:43]
  • The check-in desk staffing situation has not changed that much over the years. [00:15:39]
  • Premium cabins will have their own queues. [00:16:35]
  • There will almost always be a queue manager. [00:17:47]
  • The ticketing desk may not be at the main set of counters. [00:18:04]
  • Ticketing counter does not normally take your bags. [00:18:36]
  • If you're running late, you can flag down an agent to make the bag drop cut-off. [00:19:03]
  • Vinod's missed bag drop cut-off story in Toronto. [00:20:18]
  • Vinod assumed that he would have a cut-off grace period due to a slow queue. [00:21:39]
  • Vinod missed his connection at Heathrow. [00:22:42]
  • Airlines can be sticklers if you miss cut-off. [00:23:32]
  • Geoff had a tight family check-in on a Canadian domestic flight. [00:23:48]
  • If you're travelling with a group, make sure you're all co-ordinated for check-in. [00:24:25]
  • When you call for help to pull you ahead, make sure you have your justification ready to go. [00:25:34]
  • If you're pushing a cart - take the cart away! [00:26:49]
  • Sometimes groups mass around the person at the gate area. [00:27:31]
  • Look for other lines or access points if things are backed up. [00:28:04]
  • Lining up for security or immigration - there are ways to fast-track through. [00:29:40]
  • Premium class access. [00:30:04]
  • Vinod's Madrid security experience in 2019. [00:30:08]
  • Not all airports have premium class fast-tracked security. [00:30:54]
  • Some airports have a localized program - like stickers on a boarding pass. [00:30:58]
  • Credit card sponsorship of fast-track security. [00:32:08]
  • Vinod's story of using an expired credit card. [00:32:41]
  • Formalized fast-track programs. [00:33:25]
  • Some premium travel credit cards will pay for fast-track application. [00:34:05]
  • Your entire boarding pass fast-tracking starts when you check-in online. [00:34:25]
  • Different countries have different dead-heading rules for crews. [00:35:29]
  • People will generally go to security checkpoint closest to their gate. Is there a connected less busy one that you can use? [00:36:12]
  • Check what kind of travellers are ahead of you. [00:38:37]
  • Once you pass the person who directed you to a queue, you can pick a different one. [00:39:40]
  • Checkpoints processing people with mobility aids are exactly the same as others. [00:40:27]
  • Security lines can raise blood pressure - why does the US have so much longer lines? [00:41:15]
  • Immigration queues - each agent could process you, but it is generally processed based on passport type. [00:42:09]
  • Boarding queues. [00:43:22]
  • There is generally some sort of organized way to board the plane. [00:43:35]
  • Some airlines are very organized with zones. [00:45:24]
  • Sometimes airlines push through the queues to the jet bridge and then you end up queuing up there. [00:48:08]
  • We'll have a future experience on onboard etiquette. [00:48:50]
  • Immigration, baggage claim, customs on arrival. [00:49:21]
  • Expect to have certain wait times for customs at certain airports. [00:50:19]
  • Arrival fast-track. [00:51:33]
  • Vinod's immigration fast-track line stories. [00:52:00]
  • Be wise when you use the fast-track - economy could be a faster queue than business. [00:53:22]
  • Crew queue lines may not always be fastest for crew. [00:53:36]
  • Does your line branch into more than one throughput? [00:54:41]
  • Airlines don't take into account how much time you're going to need to process with regulatory components. [00:55:54]
  • Important that if you're tight on time, think about how it will all play out on landing. [00:57:02]
  • Bag pickup. [00:57:37]
  • A lot of people get confused what they need to do when they're getting their bags and leaving baggage hall. [00:58:01]
  • When you come into the public space - move out of the doorway! [00:58:34]
  • Vinod's flight to Vienna but missed train connection due to luggage bag retrieval delay. [00:59:39]
  • Geoff's very un-Nordic waiting time for bags at Helsinki. [01:01:01]
  • If you have to take a bus to the plane, strategies one how to stand in order to get out most effectively. [01:01:32]
  • Due to COVID, airport buses are working a bit differently. Let us know if you have ridden in one. [01:02:22]
  • News items. [01:02:54]
    • WestJet Utilizes Very Canadian Solution for Weather Issues. [01:02:58]
    • Southwest Airlines CEO Expects ‘Brutal Low-Fare’ Competition. [01:04:48]
  • Show Wrap-up. [01:06:12]