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In airports, there are some 'choke points' departing or arriving (with international flights), which make people stand in very long lines. Mostly these are:

  • Passport check
  • Personal affects security check
  • Baggage drop off ( + check-in if you haven't done so)

Now, for baggage drop off, in many cases you get enough clerks that you don't really have to wait in line, and there are certainly enough stalls to service a large number of people at time, so the third item is kind of in parenthesis.

Anyway, this is incredibly annoying and tiring - especially when you contrast it with the huge spaces in most airports, including duty-free and near-gate seating spaces which are very roomy and can hold many times more people than you would expect to pass through security; and the fact that airports have large numbers of employees. It's double annoying since there are usually empty stalls for passport check officers and for security check lanes despite there being lines for the active stalls/lanes.

This raises two questions:

  1. If airports operate these choke-points at less than maximum capacity, why do they not let people take numbers rather than stand in line for a long time?

and the question of resources:

  1. Is it really the case that airports aren't able to "widen" (= add more active lanes) their choke-points? Is it really that expensive / difficult?

Notes:

  • Please do not answer with speculation on why you think this is the case, I'm only interested in factual information if you have it.
  • I realize the reasons might be somewhat different for different airports, but since this seems to be a nearly-universal norm, I'm interested in the common/recurring reasons or justifications.

closed as too broad by David Richerby, fkraiem, Ali Awan, JonathanReez Mar 8 '17 at 13:33

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Money. Would you pay 50 $ more for your flight to wait less? Most people rather save the 50 $. – Aganju Mar 8 '17 at 12:57
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    In addition, I rarely have any wait times (with about 40 flights/y, worldwide). By being a bit anticipating about typical travel behavior, you can avoid most of those lines easily. Just be earlier or later than the majority, basically. – Aganju Mar 8 '17 at 12:59
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    Airports do not operate passport and customs check; local authorities do, and making it pleasant for you is not their top priority. – fkraiem Mar 8 '17 at 13:11
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    @einpoklum Typically not, AFAIK (and with the caveat that I only have experience in a very limited number of countries). The government sets the standards and pays for the officers. It does get money for that, through a special tax, but that's not under the direct control of the airport's operator. – Relaxed Mar 8 '17 at 13:26
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    People cost more money than square footage. – Max Mar 8 '17 at 13:42