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?


  • 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.
  • 3
    Money. Would you pay 50 $ more for your flight to wait less? Most people rather save the 50 $.
    – Aganju
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 12:57
  • 1
    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
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 12:59
  • 1
    Airports do not operate passport and customs check; local authorities do, and making it pleasant for you is not their top priority.
    – fkraiem
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 13:11
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 13:26
  • 2
    People cost more money than square footage.
    – Max
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 13:42


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