If you’ve gone to some of the larger theme parks in the past few years, you may have participated in a virtual queue. Instead of standing in line for a popular ride or attraction, you can use “something” (it depends on the park but is oftentimes your entry ticket or the park’s app) to get a time to “come back later.” When you do, your time in the queue is minimal or non-existent.
Welp, if you think about it, theme parks and airports have a lot in common. They both have lots of people who want to go to the same place (a particular ride/attraction or the secure part of the airport). They also would like their customers to participate in shopping or dining (since that’s how theme parks and airports both make money. Here are other ways that airports make money) rather than stand in lines. So it makes sense that airports would experiment with virtual queues.
Boston Logan International Airport has been running its virtual security line pilot program since April. The airport partnered with the UK-based accesso (they spell it with a lower case “a”) Technology Group, which specializes in virtual queuing.
Using the program, travelers can check in to security by scanning a QR code with their cell phone when they arrive at the airport. They then make a reservation time to arrive at the security checkpoint. Passengers can then follow a countdown to see how much time is remaining until it’s “their turn” to join the TSA queue. Once they arrive at the queue, airport staff scan the QR code on the traveler’s phone to verify the reservation.
As quoted in the Boston Globe, Kwang Chen, Chief Information Officer at the Massachusetts Port Authority, said in a press release: “The TSA line creates stress for many travelers, so our goal for this pilot program is to see if a virtual queue improves the customer experience by helping to reduce some of that stress while traveling.”
Boston’s virtual queue pilot lasts through July 7th.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport began piloting their own version of a virtual queuing program in May. Their overall goal is to streamline the travel experience, improve physical distancing and reduce congestion at peak travel times.
SeaTac’s pilot program is being done in partnership with two different companies – one is from VHT (Virtual Hold Technology Solutions), a Tennessee-based company that specializes in digital callback software, and the other is Pangiam and powered by WhyLine and Copenhagen Optimization.
As described in the Seattle Times:
The new “SEA Spot Saver” program will allow travelers to make digital reservations for TSA general screening security checkpoints either at their terminal or 24 hours ahead of the flight online. Once in the virtual queue, passengers can drop off bags, grab a coffee or say goodbye to loved ones while awaiting a notification that it’s their turn for screening.
At SeaTac, they’re trying their virtual queues two different ways:
- At checkpoint 2 (VHT), it’s like how they’re doing it in Boston – travelers scan a QR code with their phone and follow text message prompts that give them their estimated wait time. Passengers can reserve spots for upwards of 10 people in their group.
- At checkpoint 5 (WhyLine/Copenhagen Optimization), Alaska Airlines passengers can either sign up online, ahead of time, for a screening appointment or do it once they arrive at the airport. They can sign up for groups of up to 12 people.
SeaTac’s pilot program will run from 4 am to noon (that’s the airport’s peak travel period) through August 31st. After that, the program will be evaluated to see whether or not it met its goals. If it has, they’ll look into launching a broader program.
Feature Photo (cropped): Oatsy40 / Wikimedia
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary