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Friday, April 22, 2011

The service quality air travelers refuse.

When traveling, accompanying business associates tolerate my travel habits as much as I tolerate theirs.

See, most of my travelling companions are prototypical business pros when it comes to travel. You know the ones. You see them moving through the terminal like a mule train, with oversized laptop cases perched atop oversized carry-ons.

When I pick up my checked bags on arrival, they always grouse about the delay in getting to the rental car shuttle quickly. It’s about that time that I remind them that it was they, along with 50 similarly-intentioned travelers, who, in trying to fit a steamer trunk into the overhead bins, backed up the loading of the plane while they tetrissed their luggage into position, warped bin doors closed or had to have them gate-checked, inevitably making the plane late for departure.

Checking luggage is my own social contract. We can all take off & land on time much more frequently if we let airlines do a better job separating the loading of luggage from the loading of people.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this video from IBM about the baggage operation at schiphol airport in Amsterdam. 140,000 bags per day. 21km of conveyors. In-transit tracking. 50 million bags / year, expected to increase 40%. Runs like a Swiss clock.

Engineered service systems like this are making service processes more efficient while they are improving the likelihood of positive outcomes. Yes, this is an extreme example, but it has been years since I’ve had a bag misplaced or delayed. My track record for on-time flights is nowhere near as stellar.

You may not change your behavior (airlines imposing baggage fees are doing their best to make sure their operations continue to run as inefficiently as ever) but the next time you see a business traveler fight their carry-on for 3 minutes, only to give up and gate check, walking back up the plane aisle past 30 passengers waiting to board and unable to proceed to their seats, perhaps you’ll think about miles of conveyors and systems designed for the movement and loading of bags onto planes.

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