Lean Travel (or not!)

I’ve spent a good part of this past summer travelling for business. In the past, I might have flown a few times a year for conferences, but this year I’ve earned quite a few “miles,” Now, I know that some of you are already experienced Road Warriors, and you are probably already laughing at me, but I’d like to share some “learnings” from my lean perspective!

Who’s the customer of an airport? Not, it would seem, the fliers. Yes, we spend the money for the ticket. And what’s value-added for us? Getting on the plane in time for departure – comfortable flight – arriving on time, at the right airport, safely – retrieving baggage easily – obtaining transportation to the next destination, Did I capture that value stream?

So let’s take a look at the process of just getting on the plane. In order to get on the planein time for departure, we:

1. Start boarding 1/2 hour before the flight. In order to do that, we

2. Arrive at the boarding area at least 1/2 hour before the flight. In order to do that, we

3. Arrive at the screening check gate at least 1/2 hour before that time, guessing how long the lines will be in the waiting lanes. In order to do that, we

4. Arrive in the terminal at least 1/2 hour before that time, guessing how long the lines will be in the check-in waiting lanes. In order to do that, we

5. Arrive in the parking deck/lot at least 1/2 hour before that time, guessing how full the deck will be and how long it will take to find a parking space, then walk or take the bus to the terminal. In order to do that, we

Handpicked Content:   (Waste) Walk on the Wild Side

6. Leave our home or office (depending on the distance, of course) with at least an extra half-hour to spare, guessing how many construction or traffic delays will be encountered along the way to the airport.

That’s a lot of non-value-added time! Now, of course the process has many “short cuts” for those willing to pay for, or arrange for, the extra “privilege” of a lean experience!

6. Could use a taxi or limousine service to the airport.

5. Could park at one of those park-n-go places near the airport, and take the shuttle to the terminal.

4. Could check-in on-line, to get the boarding pass printed out, and use curb-side check-in for baggage if available.

3. Buy first-class ticket to go through the security check-points using the “first class” lanes, if available.

2. Ditto, to board the plane first (extra benefit, have a drink & sit in a comfy seat while watching everyone else file past for half an hour).

1. Or, take a chance and try to minimize waiting by arriving just as the boarding ends (might have to accept a certain risk of failure with this strategy, though!).

So how could the airlines/airports make the travel value stream a little less non-value-added? Doesn’t it seem as though the air travel experience could be made a little more lean for those of us who buy airplane tickets? I’d love to hear from you frequent fliers who’ve had time to think about this during all those hours of waiting in line!

Comments 3

  1. MBB2000

    In Australia, Qantas Airlines allows you to print your domestic boarding tickets 24 hours before your flight (no need to waiting in a line, 30 minutes saved), and they provide express baggage check-in points if you have a bag to check-in. Alternatively, travel light and only use a bag that will fit in the overhead compartment of the aircraft hence you avoid the baggage check-in point (another 10 minutes saved). That way you only need to negotiate the security/X-ray step. At the moment the security scanning stage is the major bottleneck at airports depending upon how many staff and X-Ray machines they have in operation. The throughput rate of these machines, the human operators ability to distinguish objects within a bag, and the "customers" ability to have all belts, shoes, laptops ready for inspection is the greatest improvement opportunity I see for this step. If everyone works together during the security screening stage then the process works well. Its the first time travellers, elderly, families going on holidays that slow the scanning stage down. Hence you really need to know when school holidays are upon us to ensure your lean airport transit interaction is as streamlined as possible. What other options exist to speed up you travel time between airports? Charter your own plane, travel only during non-peak periods, use video conferencing (avoid the airport totally), pretend to be a flight crew member and barge through the line!!!!!

  2. six sigma guy aka deepan

    I used to do web checkin whenever i travel only with hand luggage that saves lot of time – no need to go early to airport or stand in queue

    One can also become part of frequent flyer programme so that u can get lot of preferences and even stay in lounges :)

    Stay away with huge luggages and accessories which is a pain to carry as well helps to reduce time during security check

  3. Sue Kozlowski

    MBB2000, thanks for your tips. I agree about the subgroup of passengers who need more time. (Maybe that’s who should have a seperate line, not first-classpassengers!)

    Deepan, travelling light is an art that you have obviously mastered! I agree about streamlining your luggage needs. Personally I do check my bag since I’m not fond of hauling things through the airport and trying to find room in the overhead bins (or ending up with no room for my feet). And yes, frequent flier status is wonderful, not only for the reduced baggage charges but for the occasional upgrade to first class.

    Thanks to you both for your comments!

Leave a Reply