Monday, March 24, 2008

two travel notes, one good, one not

Oakland Airport was a zoo this morning as people returned home after the holiday weekend. Despite a spectacularly long security line, the ID checker from TSA took my ticket and driver's license and almost immediately asked:

So what are you doing for your birthday?
My birthday isn't for a few days, but having a TSA screener demonstrate that he was actually reading the documents in front of him was a pleasant surprise. It might be an interesting experiment to give screeners a requirement to ask one question based on the IDs they examine -- "What day is your birthday?", "Do you prefer James or Jim?", "Have you lived in Oakland long?", etc -- both to signal to passengers that they really are comparing the documents rather than holding them for 20 seconds and handing them back, and to make it easy to spot when screeners are getting tired or distracted. Not to mention that having to verbally engage with the screener gives security another set of signals -- a technique used extensively at European airports despite the language challenges this presents.

On the not-so-good side, this was the fourth arrival where getting the jetway lined up with the plane took more than 5 minutes. The OAK<->LAX United flight is on one of the itsy bitsy Canadair Regional Jets, so the jetway needs to come extra close and be lowered before the little walkway is inserted. Finding the right spot is often challenging. However, given that the geometry of this is fixed -- the aircraft is parked at the same spot, it's hatch always at the same height -- why not provide some cuing for the jetway operator? They'd be able to pick back up an average of 2 or more minutes per aircraft arrival, which would add up quickly. More broadly, going back to yesterday's post on mental models, how much ill will do you generate among passengers and employees by constantly having this problem?


Mark Brown said...

Happy Birthday! Hope ya have a good one.

Mark from New Zealand.

Betsy said...

Seconding (here anyway) the birthday wishes.