Is it possible to design an airport check-in area to get rid of lines? Such an experience seems almost a fanciful dream, but JetBlue is trying at its flagship terminal in JFK’s Terminal 5. The new layout is roughly a couple months old, operating in a soft launch for a few weeks before officially being opened to the public. I took a walk through en route to my flight in mid-June with some video to show off the process and experience.
Like the previous layout the main focus is on kiosks to aide passengers. Unlike that layout, however, these kiosks are not surrounded by snaking lines. The company’s research suggested that when people saw queues they typically joined them, even if other points were available. By having lines the layout created lines. The new setup eliminates that in many areas.
Most bag tags will be self-printed and applied. Passengers will then carry the bags to the belts to have them taken in to the screening area and delivered on to the planes. This drop off was the one place where I still saw lines, but they were not particularly long and getting the majority of passengers through the kiosks without dealing with bag drop is expected to speed the process overall.
As I had checked in online and was not dropping a bag I had little need to stop at the kiosks or bag drop. I did walk past the Mosaic/Mint area which is located separate from the rest of the kiosks, providing those passengers with a dedicated service area. It is not large but it gets the job done. Some have complained that the location is not obvious, and I suppose it isn’t, but once you know it is pretty easy to find.
For the passengers who need assistance there are more options now than the old layout offered. A full-service check-in area remains, of course, but the roving employees are the the big change. Rather than stuck behind counters these agents are out and about, interacting with passengers at multiple kiosks.
I’ve seen the space twice now and lines were far shorter than what I’ve come to know in the prior five years. Maybe I just got lucky in terms of timing but I’m thinking not; this might actually work.
The biggest negative is that the terminal exit at departures level is now gone. It was not well labeled and most folks didn’t use it but it saved going down to baggage claim and then back up for passengers traveling as carry-on only. I’m sad that’s gone, but I guess I’ll get over it with things mostly being better for everyone else.
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