Should Airport Operators Take Any Responsibility For Ensuring Passengers Make Their Flights?

Filed Under: Lufthansa, Travel

I had an interesting situation at Lisbon airport this week which gave me food for thought.

I was flying on Lufthansa from Lisbon to Munich. The flight left at 6:15am. We checked in online the night before, had Hand Luggage Only and booked an Uber for an extremely early pick up to take us to the airport.

Our Uber receipt shows we were dropped at Libson Terminal 1 at 5:13am, so about one hour before the flight departed. The check-in halls were almost deserted at this hour so we were through to security in less than five minutes.

Our Lufthansa boarding passes said that boarding would commence at 5:45 (so 30 minutes before departure), and that check-in closed 40 minutes before departure, so 5:35.

I’m giving you all these different times just to illustrate what the deadlines were, and how long things actually took to do, in comparison.

Lisbon airport security

We then reached what was possibly the most inefficient security check point I have ever witnessed.

We were in the general security queue, which split into three separate lines of around 200 people each. Despite the security hall having around 15 scanners, only about half of them were open, so two x-ray machines for each line and they each shared a body scanner.

With 25 minutes before boarding was scheduled to start, we should have been fine. But the line moved painfully slowly.

It took me a while to realize why, but as I got closer I was able to make a few observations.

Despite each x-ray belt having three signed places for passengers to put their luggage into trays at once, there was no one at the top of the line directing people (like they do very efficiently at London airports). So dozens of what were likely once-a-year flyers would wait until the security officer standing behind the x-ray belt called out to them to come over to a particular spot at the belt. This meant only one bag would often be move through the belt at a time.

The body scanning was being done by one person only. Whenever the machine beeped, and a passenger had to be taken aside for a pat down, the entire body scanning line would be stopped while this happened.

The security guard would often find coins or other metals during the pat down, and would wander back through the body scanner to find a tray, to then put this on the x-ray belt, all the time stopping anyone else from walking through the scanner.

So there were regularly at least a dozen passengers standing in line waiting to walk through the body scanner (having already put their cabin luggage on the x-ray belt).

Do you ever just watch a situation and see the extremely obvious problems and wonder why no one else notices them? That was me that morning. I had the same experience transiting at Cairo airport last year.

The security line was incredibly inefficient, and it took us around 40 minutes to get through the security line.

Despite arriving over an hour before the flight left, heading straight to the gate, and obviously skipping the lounge, our flight was already on final call when we got to the gate.

The plane was on a remote stand, so we had to wait on a bus until the very last passenger arrived (there were several passengers arriving after us), and thus took off late, and landed late, despite the flight being the first flight of the day for that aircraft.

As you can see from FlightRadar24 below, the delay had a knock-on effect. Every flight that day was delayed (even taking into account padded block times). I would primarily guess this was because of the security times at Lisbon that morning.

Do airlines set impossible check-in times?

Now Lufthansa said on our boarding pass that check-in would close at 5:35am, with boarding to commence 10 minutes later.

Security took 40 minutes, so had we checked a bag just before 5:35 (when check-in closed, 40 minutes before the flight), with the time it would have taken us to get to security, the 40 minutes in the security queue, and the walk/run to the gate there is no way we would have made the flight.

I realize these are the bare minimums, and don’t like to cut it that close myself, but it seems everyone benefits when the minimums are realistic.

So who has responsibility for this?

I imagine this might be different in the U.S., where the majority of airports use the government-run TSA to operate their security checkpoints.

I’ve never worked for an airline, but I imagine there is a general agreement between airline operators about the approximate security wait times at each airport at different times of the day. Airlines need to be able to plan their schedules, and set their check-in times appropriately.

Of course airports would not guarantee these times, because there are so many factors outside of their control, but some general guidance seems appropriate.

I doubt Lufthansa would set a 40 minute bag drop deadline followed by a 30 minute boarding time if they thought it would take each passenger 40 minutes to get through security, given they still want to depart on time.

The security times would have been significantly improved had Lisbon airport security either:

Bottom line

It was by far the longest I’ve ever waited at outbound security at any European airport, second only to probably Shanghai, for any airport I’ve experienced worldwide. I made the flight with time to spare but could not work out why Lufthansa set a 40 minute check in deadline at an airport where security would also take 40 minutes to pass through.

I would guess people missing their flights at Lisbon is very common, as there were an awful lot of very stressed people in the security line.

Who should take responsibility for passengers missing their flights because of unusually long security lines? The airline who sets the check-in and boarding times, or the airport who takes unnecessarily long to screen passengers?

I’m keen to hear your thoughts!

  1. The airline can’t control how the airport plans security staffing and shouldn’t be liable in these situations. The last thing airlines want to do is create a dynamic timeline by airport for when to checkin because it will create too much confusion instead of people consistently knowing when they should be there.

    These situations are generally handled with the airline raising concerns with the airport management, but it is sometimes like putting a complaint in the complaint box where nothing happens. Airlines also tend to overbook flights in these situations more as their RM systems see higher amounts of people missing the flight

  2. I travel a lot myself and I am used to the advantages of Global Entry and Pre-Check in the U.S. That said, as any experienced traveler should know, airports recommend a certain arrival time at the airport to allow enough time to make the flight. A quick internet search shows that the recommended time for Schengen flights at Lisbon airport is 90 minutes.
    Now, I don’t like to arrive that far in advance at airports myself, but the answer here is simple: if you arrive only an hour before your departure and you miss your flight the issue is yours.

    Now, I agree that the security check sounds horribly inefficient and can be improved. Nonetheless, they even publish the recommended time you should account for when traversing the airport – like it or not.

  3. In Portugal everything is supposed to be late and the German airline does not consider this. Lufthansa should add in a bigger buffer time for planes leaving from Portugal. 🙂

  4. I’ve waited in security lines in European airports, large and small, of over 90 minutes on a few occasions and 30 minutes is about the mean. Passport check lines (before security) in places like FCO have exceeded one hour in summer months. I avoid many EU airports where I’ve experienced these inefficient operations in the past but at least things seem to be getting better each year.

    I never leave less than two hours for the process unless, like in your situation, an early morning flight when airport operations aren’t even open two hours prior, I try for at least 90 minutes. I’ve missed a few flights and it’s been a painful experience I don’t ever want to repeat.

    At large US airports, I’ve seen (I’m assuming) airport agents moving passengers to the front of security lines whose flights are close to departure time. Never seen this happen in the EU. The airport authorities should be able to anticipate issues when large numbers of passengers are in danger of missing flights and take action.

  5. Who should take responsibility for missing a flight? Ummm, that’s you, my friend. You were dropped at the curb less than an hour ahead of time for an international flight. You’re lucky you made the flight. Welcome to adulthood – show up on time.

  6. Brussels Belgium is worse than that. We had planned on 45 minutes in the lounge, but instead had to pretty much run to catch our flight.

  7. And, P.S. – that cascading series of late arrivals the rest of the day? That’s partially on you and the rest of the passengers who clearly cut it to close as well. So, thanks for that on behalf of the ~500+ people you impacted that day.

  8. In your opening paragraph you write “I was flying on Lufthansa from Munich to Lisbon.”, shouldn’t it be Lisbon to Munich?

  9. @ Brian – 100% agree. I just don’t get how in his last paragraph the scenarios are that the airline or the airport are the only responsible parties if a missed flight?? Any times posted for baggage check-in, etc. are general guidelines and a passenger needs to add to that appropriately for the unknowns.

  10. James, you would be called someone with an entitled attitude in america.

    I don’t know if it’s the airlines responsibility. But It’s good to ask questions that question the status quo. Progress is made when someone asks why instead of saying ok.

    In general here in the US they put you on standby if you miss your flight so they do take responsibility that you reach your destination eventually.

  11. What I never understood about security lines or customs lines is that they know exactly how many people are coming and going at each hour during the day, so basic operations management 101 should be able to accurately determine approximately how many people will be coming thru an hour. Blows my mind when there are massive lines at customs and at early morning flights because they aren’t staffed well.

  12. I’ve noticed that some European airports (GVA in particular) often have people asking to push ahead through security / passport queues because they’re worried about missing their flight.

    I don’t approve, though had to try it myself once in MIA when a 3hr transfer looked like it wasn’t going to be enough. I was told to stop by an unfriendly TSA agent before any other passengers did.


  13. @Michael – they know how many seats are arriving and departing but certainly do not know the number of passengers booked until well after a staffing schedule is created. They have a finite number of staff and generally push the higher staffing levels to the peak times of day.

  14. Come on, as someone who flies Ryanair often, you know this wasn’t much of a knock-on effect. I mean, 11 minutes late in MUC? 4 minutes late in BCN? That’s within the margin of error 🙂

    Aside from that, I’m with James here. This is hardly an international flight for all intents and purposes, and inefficient security checks make all the difference. Curiously, I flew out of OPO very recently and security was a breeze, as is the case in most European airports.

    My only terrible experience from recent years was (curiously) STN, where a lot of inexperienced fliers bogged down the line and my carry-on got flagged by the automatic scanner multiple times. It took about 40 minutes total.

  15. @Sam – yeah, I understand the nuance. When I fly domestically in the US I show up at least 90-minutes ahead of time. In 20+ years, do you know how many times I’ve missed a flight or had to run through the airport to get to the gate? Zero.

    I also get that stuff happens – car breaks down, train is late, baby is sick, etc. But that’s not what the author suggests here. He decided an hour was enough time. Sounds like you agree. Awesome. But if it isn’t – it’s on you, not the airline or airport.

    The lack of individual responsibility even being among the choices offered up in the post is my issue. Sorry to sound like an old man, but I guess that’s what I am.

  16. To answer your initial question, James: The passenger is responsible. Now is one hour enough for a Schengen flight (which is basically the same concept like a domestic flight; i.e. only security but no passport control)? In my experience it’s should be o.k., but definitely not excessive … and I think this was also your experience. You made the flight, but with no spare time.

    On a side note: LIS has a fast track security and as StarGold you should qualify, even when flying in Economy. Given that you mention your initial intention to visit the lounge, I get you were either flying Business or are StarGold or both. The most I had waited at LIS fast track was 5 minutes.

  17. Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight (domestic or international) and you won’t have a problem missing a flight, even at the worst of airports.

    Airlines unfortunately, have little control over the airport security theatre.

  18. Going to have to +1 with Brian here. Just to add, my travel pet peeve is when I show up early to the airport and the idiot who shows up 45 minutes before their flight leaves cuts everyone in line to try to make the flight. Sorry but your terrible planning should not constitute an emergency on my part.

  19. Oh man, try flying out of the Alaska/BA terminal at JFK (Terminal 7). Despite having 12 gates and allegedly having precheck that line can take 50 minutes.

    Chicago Midway is awful too.

    Look, there’s no reason to tolerate this. Airports know exactly how many people are passing through security and these procedures should be set in stone at this point. If you can’t funnel people through in 20 minutes or significantly less than shut it down.

  20. I stood in the premium line in FRA this summer. I watched person after person struggle with going through the scanner. They simply could not comprehend that you had to take everything out of your pocket. Including paper. I watched incredulously as a man spent about 5 minutes emptying an amazing amount of stuff out of every conceivable ‘pocket’ in his pants, vest, shirt, etc.

    Then the attendant, who was a delightfully engaging German guy, was incredibly particular about how everything would be put into bins and taken out of things, and laid out for scan.

    I was maybe 8th in line and watched this go on for at least 25 minutes. The non ‘fast track’ lanes were backed up like crazy, but pushing people through quickly.

    Eventually, another attendant came up and ‘suggested’ that the micromanaging attendant switch places. It helped, but I remained shocked at how many people waited until they got up to the attendant before they even thought about putting the stuff in their pockets into their backpacks.

    And these were mostly German travelers (leisure) based upon how many had nice discussions with the attendant in German while they slowly went through every pocket on their person pulling out a surprising assortment of things.

    To answer your question, I don’t think the airlines have been able to hold the airport too accountable. And it certainly put into question the stereotype about ‘German efficiency’. At least ‘most’ Americans know to have completely empty pockets by the time they reach the scanner.

  21. I ALWAYS arrive 6 HOURS early before every flight. I have NEVER missed a fight yet. You should think about that!!!

    Had you slept AT the airport, you would have had no problem making the flight. It is YOUR fault, plain and simple.

  22. Guys I’m not sure you understand the point of this article. I didn’t say I almost missed the flight and it was everyone’s fault but mine. I made the flight with time to spare and in the many hundreds of flights I’ve taken I’ve never missed one.

    I’m saying why does Lufthansa give a 40 minute check in cut-off when it takes 40 minutes just to get through security at this particular airport? It would make it impossible for anyone checking their bag in last minute to make the flight (or the flight to take off on time).

  23. I had a similar same experience at FRA a few years ago. Despite a near empty security lane it took me more than 45 minutes to pass the checkpoint because the agents were so slow and inefficient (and were also chatting together). After a long run to the gate the gate agent told me that boarding was just finished.

    As a result I was required to purchase a new ticket.

  24. Try Manchester Airport in the UK, the lines for security can be awful. Even if you have priority. Less said about baggage drop at Ryanair the better.

  25. It’s Portugal. Add it to the list of 837 other things that need improving or could be more efficient, but aren’t.

  26. I fly out of Lisbon almost every single time (sometimes out of OPO) and it never ever took me that long to go through security, even before I was *Gold. So you were unlucky. With that said, Lisbon airport is a complete mess right now and most of the flights depart late. It’s way past it’s capacity and a second airport in Lisbon is supposed to be available in 2021 only, if everything goes as planned (it’s a air force base right now). So it will get worse before it gets better.

    But yeah….one hour is pushing it, in LIS and everywhere. Sure you’ll make it most of the times but if something goes wrong, you’re toast.

  27. “if you arrive only an hour before your departure and you miss your flight the issue is yours.”

    Yup. In that case, it’s on the airline or the airport, it’s on the passenger.

  28. I agree that airlines are not in control of security. However, if this were ATL, I am positive that Delta would do something about the situation. I also recognize that Delta does recommend its passengers arrive at ATL well before the 30 minute guideline. I get what you’re saying that a good airline should be prudent in giving its customers reasonable advice on expectations before boarding, not just because it’s their responsibility but because it’s in their best interest to provide a good passenger experIence.

  29. If you were one of the last people on the plane, then surely its your responsibility to make sure you leave plenty of time for whatever the reason to get on your flight.

    IF people got their 2 hours before the flight all well and good, but you chose to get their an hour before and therefore you took the risk!

  30. The Lufthansa times quoted are standard for inter-EU flights, from my experience. What I would like to see is airlines taking responsibility for having feasible CONNECTING times, and not suggesting a sub-1-hour connection for huge airports like AMS, FRA, etc… especially for U.K. to EU connections, when you also will be required to go through passport control and security as part of your first stop in a Shengen-member country. For example Lufthansa will suggest LON-FRA -LUX bookings where it Is physically impossible to make the connection as there is not enough time, even if queues are rather short. Sure, after being given a withering look by an agent in FRA, you will be re-booked on the next flight to Luxembourg – and have a nice 4-5 hour unplanned layover. But the original flight pairing shouldn’t be ticket-able.

  31. I fly from LIS all the time (tomorrow for example), never experienced security wait times beyond 20 min. Will see how it is tomorrow…

    That said I always fly in the afternoon / evening, so might be different from the morning.

    In any case I always arrive 2 hrs before any non domestic flight (even intra schengen).

  32. The only flight I ever missed was in the horrible “terminal D” at TXL, for an early morning flight to CDG on Eurowings. This part of the terminal has a centralised security (2 lanes) for over 5 gates. There were operational issues at the gate that morning so I missed the flight.

    I was rebooked on a connecting flight to CDG for free by Eurowings ground staff due to these issues at security control. This would suggest to me that airlines are willing to take responsibility for airport operational issues at security.

    Btw, I have taken that same early morning flight to MUC. While the bag-drop line was a mess, the security was actually a breeze. So your situation seems like more of an extraordinary circumstance.

  33. James, I don’t think LH (or most other airlines) do set their check-in times based on the specific airport. In my experience, they will have a standard check-in time for all short-haul flights and another for long-haul. Possibly another for domestic, if applicable. Standardisation is the name of the game so it would have to be a very unusual situation (such as the short check-in times at London City airport) to make an exception.

  34. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but since when have airlines made custom check in desk times by airport? I’d imagine their cut off is the same at any other EU airport.

    I also highly doubt airports have contractual agreements for security times with the airlines – why would they?

  35. Why would you assume that 1 hour before flight time is adequate when every airline I’ve ever flown recommends 2 hours before flight. It’s people who are always running right up to the last second that set the ominous tone for others in the lines. Now everyone is on edge.

  36. Lisbon airport is a total mess — once I arrived and we had been let into the part of the airport with departing passengers, not arrivals. Security eventually kettled us for 40 mins while they decided what to do, and a lot of Portuguese people shouted at them.

    @James you do come off a bit like a diva in this article, although I agree, first time fliers plus poor line management just cause delays that could easily be avoided.

    That said, LIS is nothing like GRU or just about every other airport in Latin America! To be honest I think SIN and HKG management should just defacto be given control of all airports and then you’d suddenly see everything start working.

    Lufthansa’s transfer times are not impossible, but you know to take into account now.

    Googling things like what to expect in reality at an airport should be second nature to frequent travellers!

  37. I hate to say it, as someone who will be moving there, but although Portugal/Lisbon have exploded in popularity, and the country has come out of an economic downturn with harshly imposed constraints imposed by the EU, they have only recently moved out of being the poorest country in Westetn Europe, and basic infrastructure, like airports, Show it. TAP airlines of Portugal has also struggled with a reputation you’d see in a 3rd World country. Bottom line; trains, planes and public transport will not be on the level of Germany.

  38. I’m guessing the issue is that LH (and other airlines) set their check-in cutoff for a particular airport based on some sort of average wait times for that airport under normal conditions. I’d wager that for a flight at 2 PM on a Tuesday, 40 minutes is more than enough. If what you experienced is typical at LIS for early morning departures, then it isn’t. The problem is, what’s the solution? Have the airlines create a separate check-in cutoff for every flight based on security/immigration lines at the scheduled time? Or set the cutoff based on worst-case conditions at peak times, and force people flying Tuesday at 2 PM to check-in 75 minutes before flight time? Neither is practical. And I can guarantee you, if LH did increase the cutoff to 75 minutes, you’ll hear no end of complaining when security only takes 10 minutes to clear. Seems like a no-win situation to me.

  39. Ben-
    The times Lufthansa sets are Lufthansa times. That’s when the check in boys and girls shut down their systems and is the guaranteed way to not make it to your flight. If they put 60 minutes instead and someone got there just after with no lines anywhere, they’d miss their flight which would be extremely annoying.
    With the exception of a couple of airports, I’d say that anyone should be at the airport 90-120 minutes before take off. Anything less than that will be relying too heavily on things working alright.
    Personally, and this is a personal thing, between how much I hate Lee-flight stress and the fact I kinda like airports, this works well for me at least.

  40. Yeah , security could be more efficient but , it’s not . Other passengers could be better prepared for security but , they’re not . There can be many debates about how things really should be but , they are not and will not be . An experienced and rational traveler will face the truth and adjust accordingly . IOW theorize all you want but get to the airport sooner .

  41. I don’t think James is being a diva, he’s talking about airline cutoffs. That said, it’s always best to check to see what people say online about a particular airport, especially one you’re not familiar with.
    For those saying 90 mins at least for all airports, yesterday I took an early morning flight out of HKG (my local airport) and, having mobile boarding pass and no checked luggage, got there 45 mins before boarding started. I was at the gate (the 200s that require trains to get to) 5 mins before boarding started. It was a long weekend for both China and Hong Kong, and wasn’t exactly quiet.
    I do this every time I take an early morning flight, because it’s just that efficient. Of course, if anything went south it’d be my fault, but I do this at least monthly and so far, so good.

  42. Totally agree with Arno – Manchester UK is the absolute pits – even if you pay (£5.00) to get “privileged service” in the “Priority Lane” you still get treated like garbage. Shanghai queues are indeed a problem (as are Beijing Capital and Bangkok) but the Manchester Airport Group must surely take the prize for being the most exploitative and appalling airport operators on the planet.

  43. Ridiculous comments here. Anyone who checks in ahead of the deadline (40 mins) did not arrive too late at the airport, period. BTW the plane is not allowed to leave once your checked bag is on it. Of course, the airports are responsible for the delays. As someone mentioned, they know how many people will board at any time of day. So demand for security staffing is highly predictable. There shouldn’t be any wait times exceeding 5 minutes. This is true for passport control too. I do not understand why the airlines do not push back on this. They are the ones having to pay for delays. I’d tally up the costs and reduce airport fees by the same amount.

    Processes at security can be certainly improved. What is needed is an assembly line process, like at a self-service canteen. At the beginning, people take a tray. Then they move through several steps where at each step they are asked by signs in several languages to (1) remove laptops (2) remove liquids (3) take off shoes etc. and put them on their tray(s). At the end, people themselves are getting onto a moving belt and moving through the scanner. When the lines get longer, move the belt faster. Job done!

  44. I just flew the same LH LIS-MUC flight two weeks ago. There is a priority security area but rather than turning left into security you go straight.

    Incidentally the usual boarding time for that flight is 545am- my boarding pass was manually adjusted to 535am due to the remote stand. The remote stand issue is also a reason these check in times can be unreasonable, and it’s also due to airport operations…

    Lastly – I adore Lisbon. But boy do they need a bigger and newer airport if they want that city to be the next MAD and not lose out to Porto…

  45. If a traveler arrives at the airport an hour before a flight and misses their flight, then it’s the fault of the traveler.

    I’ve always read/heard (in the US) that you should arrive at the airport 2 hours in advanced for domestic flights and 3 hours in advanced for international. I’ve never had an issue making a flight if I follow those guidelines.

    Furthermore, the cut-off time for check-in is due to the time it takes a checked bag to get from the check-in desk and on to the plane. There is no relation between the cut-off for check-in and the time it takes a passenger to get to a gate.

  46. The key, James, is that these deadlines are the minimum time needed. Absolute minimum. A regular flyer well knows the risks of cutting it fine. My advice would be to stop over-thinking what is, after all, a “first world problem” and just get yourself to the airport in good time and therefore with some slack in case of hold-ups.

    I fly a 06.05 departure on a domestic route once a month during the summer. Taxi at 3.45 am, arrival at airport at 4.15, boarding at 5.35 – 5.40. Usually there’s time for a coffee in the lounge or a cafe – even on the occasions when I’m not using a “fast track’ security lane – and this takes into account the fact that security is heaving at 4.30 am in the summer months.

    So ……. leave early, relax, stop worrying about inconsequential issues. (And remember that an article can never be very interesting when its main theme is an inconsequential issue!)

  47. Your comparison between the 40 minute bag drop deadline and 30 minute boarding time isn’t accurate – 40 minutes is the *last* time you can drop a bag, so you have to compare it to the last time you can board, which would be when the doors close. I’m not sure when that is for Lufthansa, but I would imagine that’s about 10 minutes before the flight, which allows for 30 minutes to go through security (for the latest passengers). Still though, I agree with the other commenters that it’s the passenger’s fault if they’re pushing up against the bag drop deadline and miss a flight as a result, there are so many uncontrollable things including traffic, delayed trains to the airport, etc. so you’re responsible for factoring in enough of a time buffer in case things take longer than expected…

  48. 1) That’s Portugal for you. We have a running joke here in Brazil about the Portuguese being slow in many ways of life…if you catch my drift.

    2) Get there earlier mate. This one was on you.

  49. Btw, ive suggested this before and will again: Can either you, Tiffany, or Ben write up an article with the top 10 worst airports to connect and top 10 best? (regarding security wait times, size of airport, terminal connection, etc) Would be very helpful for when booking flights with connecting options

    Thanks! 🙂

  50. All airports are different .
    Last week I flew to Bangkok on a low cost airline from Kuala Lumpur Terminal 2 (low cost) and it took a full one hour and 40 minutes from terminal arrival to gate . I had hand luggage only and had checked in online with paper boarding pass. Air Asia made me stand in a check in desk line to check boarding pass against passport. Then another line to check boarding pass and passport to get into terminal, then hand luggage scan to get into airport ( not opening suitcase ) , then immigration line ,then proper security check ( fluids and laptops out ). That was 5 lines to get to gate . Each one had around 10 to 20 persons in front , so each took about 10 to 15 minutes , plus a long 20 minute walk to gate . I had allowed 2 hours , I always do and then have a coffee near the gate . Why get stressed and miss flights ?

  51. Airlines are paying fees to airports to use those airports. These fees are therefore built into your ticket prices or the taxes and charges component. These fees are more than enough to cover adequate security and in many cases also make a tidy profit for the airports. So if airports are not providing efficient security processes for the fees being paid it’s a commercial issue between the airlines and the airport. I don’t see how any passenger who complies with the deadlines prescribed by the airline can be in the wrong. Perhaps some commenters should focus on the facts rather than being bitchy.

  52. @Traveler, I disagree, what’s your logic? It’s infrequent travelers who aren’t prepared to pass thru security.

    I’m with James on this topic. LIS security, along with KEF are some of the worst I’ve seen lately. Ironically both airport’s national carriers are driving passenger traffic by promoting free stopovers. Airports should be held responsible to keep pace with efficiency.

  53. @James

    I don’t think anyone misunderstood…you just simply asked a different question in the article than you did in your comment. The article (even the title) is asking for who’s responsible when you miss a flight. And people seem to have come down on the side of the flyer.

    The question in your comment, why would LH set a 40-minute cut off would seemingly have an easy answer. Surely OMAAT has some industry friends?

  54. “I’ve never worked for an airline, but I imagine there is a general agreement between airline operators about the approximate security wait times at each airport at different times of the day.”

    I work for an airline. I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say. Airlines schedule their flights in “banks” so yes, all the major ones generally understand when peak security times will be. They will hold flights for people still going through security in extenuating circumstances. That’s pretty rare though, because there’s a strange obsession in the industry with getting a flight out on time. They don’t generally consider long security wait times to be their problem to fix. Although as a previous commenter mentioned, if it’s a big problem sometimes carriers will pressure airport management to make their screening process more efficient, especially if it’s a major hub of theirs.

  55. Thank you @Brian and countless airport apologists for justfiying wasting people’s time and make people miserable in airport line.
    truly dispicable.

  56. 40 minutes is not a long time to exit security. Odd article at best. I certainly would not assume one way or another unless I travel through the airport quite often.

  57. All of you people saying to show up 2-3 hours before a flight are not people who are regular business travelers or who value your time. It obviously depends on how important the flight is, but in most situations, there is no need to show up this early. If you are flying to a destination that is regularly served, you can probably just catch the next flight if you miss it. I regularly show up at the gate as the flight is about to start boarding. Haven’t missed a flight yet. Aiming to show up with 1h to spare is fine in 95% of cases.

  58. Manchester Airport Group (MAG) have consistently got miserably low ratings with customer satisfaction and delivery A Manchester Crown Court Judge recently denied MAG damages when he sided with a person who had objected to the extortionate “drop off” tariffs – the judge had also been recently subjected to these charges and felt that Manchester Airport Group are “bloody greedy and over the top with their constant charging for trolleys and stuff”

    MAG are obviously not available for comment.

  59. Passengers already have to pay high fees to the airports, included in ticket prices. So, there is an obligation for the airports, to provide an acceptable service. 1,5 hrs queuing at Frankfurt airport yesterday to get through security is by far too long, even for the lowest economy fares. I don’t pay a lot of money for inadequate service. Counting the time wasted in queues, the train is not slower on most domestic routes. Lufthansa should work on it.

  60. Departing OPO at 6am tomorrow morning. Allowing myself 90 minutes. As travelling HLO and in J am hoping for a smooth transit through airport. (Is there a separate/fast-track line for j pax?)
    I have noticed that anything to do with officialdom here is pretty inefficient~ like timetables are just suggestions; nothing more.

  61. Surprised at all the negativity. Clearly ludicrously inefficient security processes and the airline should be holding airport management to account. An hour for a European flight is absolutely reasonable, esp with bag drop closing when it does.

  62. One point that this highlights is that if passenger does not check in a bag, the first evidence regarding timing is when one arrives at the gate, so airline probably says “passenger fault”.

    If passenger does check in a bag, necessarily before the check-in deadline, then the airline has taken responsibility.

    One possible coping technique: if on a fare with checked baggage included, check in something small (and disposable?)
    Then the airline will normally hold the ‘plane.

  63. The improvement in managing the security lines at LGW when Ferrovial were forced to divest the airport a few years ago (and so there was real competition between airports) was dramatic.
    Speed of security lines is about management:
    – management of the process design – identify the scarce resource (usually the bag scanner) and make sure it operates with a 99% load.
    – management of staff – if not monitored, why should they ever cease bad habits?
    – management of passengers – make the process easy to understand, tell, show, and direct them.

  64. “It is passengers like you who arrive late at the airport who are causing these delays.”

    Whether you are early or late, security officers spend the same time on you. So I do not understand why you say that late passengers cause these delays.

    Queues develop because security is not adequately staffed at peak times, with those peak times well known in advance. Since the number of passengers does not change nor the average time commitment of security officers for each passenger, bringing the queue down to almost nothing would not cause an increase in man hours. What’s needed is just better planning and organisation.

    I have to say I really do not understand why neither the airlines nor the airports are trying to fix this. I already mentioned that these issues cause huge costs to airlines in the form of operational delays.

    But the airports also suffer.

    I try to arrive at airports around 2 hours before flights. Not due to security lines, but to have a buffer in case my ground transport to the airport is delayed. It has happened to me repeatedly (and yes, I am talking about MAN T2) that this margin of safety was almost completely eaten up by the security line. Without the wait, I’d have otherwise spent an hour in the terminal, providing business to the airport’s shops and restaurants (airports make a lot of money as essentially a mall operator charging rents and a portion of revenue to shops etc.). After the wait, I just rushed to the gate and the airport lost out on this business.

  65. Frankfurt airport security is even worse these days. Very inefficient! I almost missed my connection few weeks back. More then 60 mins for security, saw also long lines for non EU citizens in customs (fortunately could skip that one) and that plus the long walking times from one gate to the other. Now I got my status back fortunately things should be a bit better using gold track.

  66. During my travels I have flown out of many European airports. I’ve had two memorable incidents which also made me question who is responsible. Both times I laid fault at the Airlines feet not the Airport. When flying out of Amsterdam en-route to London the Check-in with British Airways for some unexplained reason took nearly 2 hours which set off a chain reaction of events, screening was delayed for 10 minutes because border control was backed up. I was certain we missed our flight, when we reached our gate it was empty except for one gate agent, she asked for my name then said we held up closing the door because we were notified of what had occurred at check-in. I was shocked. The Captain notified passengers on the Flight that the delay was due to a flight being cancelled and they were taking those passengers from that cancelled flight..
    The second was Tap Portugal on a flight from Brussels to Marrakesh with a connection in Lisbon. the Connection time was short so we already knew it was gonna be tricky. Tap was late departing and upon arrival we had to wait for the transport buses. We ended up missing our flight which was the only scheduled flight leaving for Marrakesh this was at 11:30 am! Tap put us up in Hotel in Lisbon for the night, normally you don’t get back your checked bags put we demanded to have our checked baggage returned to us. We got our hotel,food, transport vouchers and bags then headed for Lisbon which we found very enjoyable. Yes we missed our flight but we were staying in Marrakesh for a week in Riad we just contacted them to advise we would be there the next morning. some other passengers weren’t as kind to Tap about missing their connections. So yes I think the blame sometime sits right into the Airlines Lap.

  67. This just sounds like classic europeans, not knowing/caring how to queue!

    Having said that, the last several times flying from the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class wing at Heathrow, the line has moved so slowly, seemingly even more slowly than the regular security line.

    I also think another factor is the ridiculous scrutiny european ‘security’ pays to the 100ml rule etc. They show zero discretion whatsoever – Heathrow security once swabbed a piece of Christmas cake. I find the TSA so much more sensible in this regard.

  68. In my opinion, the whole problem is caused by the use of body scanners. Do you know when they added them to Lisbon? They were not there when I flew out of Lisbon last year and there were not any issues. It takes significantly longer for a passenger to go through a body scanner than a metal detector and it is completely reasonable to expect people used to going through metal detectors to not be familiar with going through body scanners. I am very disappointed to learn that they now have body scanners at Lisbon.

    Regarding the lines–I have been in line for over an hour at LHR. However, this was the transfer security line for people making connections in Terminal 5.

    The lines can get to be over an hour at the international terminal at O’Hare (Terminal 5). I have seen airlines (Aer Lingus comes to mind) send staff to the security line, escorting people on their flights caught in the line when their flights are boarding to the front of the line to make sure that they make their flights.

    For some instances, such as international flights involving the US, it makes sense for airlines to work to ensure that passengers make their flights if they have a checked bag. The law requiring passengers to be on the same flight as their checked bag makes it where having to go through all of the bags to offload the bag of someone who misses the flight would cause a bigger delay than letting someone board a few minutes late.

    In my opinion, the instances where airlines should be responsible for passengers missing the flights because of long lines are when the check-in counter does not open soon enough prior to the flight. I have flown out of airports (London Luton comes to mind) where the check-in counter does not open as early as it is supposed to. I have been concerned about cutting it close because of this. This has the potential in resulting in one with a checked bag finding it impossible to make their flight in certain instances (although perhaps they could pay for fast track). As a US passport holder, I was required to have my passport verified at the check-in desk whether or not I checked a bag, meaning that one could not say that it was my fault for checking a bag that I had to wait for the check-in desk to open.

  69. Interesting… as a paying passenger and taxpayer, the portion of my out-of-pocket expenses is funding the service, yet as a passenger, I am SOLELY responsible for getting to the airport so far in advance to guarantee making it onto the flight. If the airport suggests showing up 4 hours in advance, well, then it is MY responsibility to make sure I’m there 5 hours ahead. If they recommend queuing up 12 hours in advance, it is again my responsibility to make sure I obey. If there are holes in the street pavement, it is my responsibility to avoid them (swerving onto oncoming traffic be damned). If air is polluted, it is my responsibility to buy HEPA filter and appropriate mouth device.

    Individualism brought lots of positive things into our culture, but holding service providers accountable for service provided (and paid directly or indirectly) is not one of them. And general mob mentality will continue propagating that notion – no matter what is in question, it is individual’s fault. This simply prevents ANY discussion around improving said service, like what James (perhaps clumsily) tried to do with this article.

    Yes, airports have an absolute responsibility to make sure the security lines operate at maximum efficiency (including once-a-lifetime travelers). The government has a total responsibility in training and staffing passport control to match the influx of people. Individuals have obligation to demand better service from both and pose questions on WHY it can not be better than “90 minutes in security line”, “120 minutes ahead of scheduled flight”, “3 hours ahead in peak time” and any other limitations imposed by monopoly-like service (and yes, flying looks highly commoditized these days, but most cities have only one airport or no meaningful alternatives). Yes, passengers are responsible, but not solely in “do as you are told”, or “plan for worst” fashion, but primarily pushing for better use of their dollars. Because, aside from the individual inconvenience of missing the flight (which “individual is at fault” approach sees as the only outcome), there is also a HUGE societal cost of millions of people daily missing 3 hours of anything even remotely productive (as they have to come earlier, wait in long lines and sit at the gate idly because of come-ahead requirement). Even sneaking a couple of emails on your laptop while in the lounge is not going to compensate.

  70. LIS is a mess right now. They need to finish the new airport. There are too many bottlenecks built into that airport. An hour early should be plenty of time for a Schengen flight.

    I’m not sure if this person Brian has a job or is just a troll.

    It’s a huge economic inefficiency to arrive at an airport three hours early and should be completely unnecessary, especially if you’re not checking bags. Three hours for what?! A cursory inspection of the passport and a security check? The security check takes 2 minutes or less per person. If you include walking through the airport or the slowest tram that’s 2.5 hours of waiting– wasted time for all the passengers at the airport.

    It’s also wasted money for the airport as people are not spending money at the airport’s shops. I connected at CDG last week and spent most of the time waiting for a bus within terminal 2. When I arrived at terminal 2 I didn’t get to frequent any of the fancy (and empty) shops as everyone seemed to be running for their gates.

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