Airport Q Ratings

This item appears on page 55 of the April 2009 issue.

A reader requested that ITN collect data from travelers to compare wait times at international airports. Here is the second batch of readers’ Q Ratings (see June ’08, pg. 46).

In the listings below, a perfect Q Rating score is zero, meaning there were no lines in which passengers had to wait. For each queue/line in which someone did have to stand — for check-in, tax payments, security screening, boarding, Customs — a point was subtracted. The DQ is for a departure and the AQ, an arrival.

If someone made it from the curb and onto the plane having to stand in only three lines, the DQ was -3. If it took queuing up five times to get from the plane to the taxi, that airport’s AQ on that day was -5. For a same-day transfer, involving both arrival and departure, TQ is the term used.

In each case, we asked the flyer to name the airport, give the date of transit and the flight departure or arrival time, list what each queue was for and state the total of the wait times and/or how long it took to, essentially, get through the airport (not counting bathroom breaks, etc.). This is real-time data.

Barring objection, this will be the last installment of Airport Q Ratings. Thank you for your letters.

ATL-Atlanta Hartsfield: AQ-4

On April 25, 2008, my companions and I were on a direct nonstop flight from Zürich, Switzerland, to Atlanta, Georgia. In Atlanta, we. . .

1. went through passport control (five mins.);

2. turned in our agriculture/food statements (two mins.), and

3. picked up our checked luggage.

4. A security guard told us to take our bags to the carousel, saying we could pick them up later at Terminal 2, and to get in a line of people. I could see the people were going through a security check as if they going to board a plane. I told the guard we were staying in Atlanta for a few days, not transferring to another flight. She told me to just get in line.

This line was quite long; we estimated approximately 1,000 people. Twice, I asked different security people why we had to go through this security check if we were going to stay in Atlanta. They just said we had to. With only three gates to process everyone, it took us approximately three hours to get through the security check.

After walking a long distance and taking a train, we arrived at the terminal and picked up our luggage. The total time from stepping off the plane to retrieving our luggage was approximately four hours. I have flown several times since 9/11 and have never had this happen before.

Pat Still, Talent, OR

I flew from St. Louis, Missouri, to Athens, Greece, with two transfers on July 9, 2008.

STL-St. Louis: DQ-3

1. Check-in (two mins.).

2. Security (15 mins. — hip and knee replacements).

3. Boarding (10 mins.). The flight left at 10:22 a.m.

ORD-Chicago (O’Hare): TQ-1

1. Boarding (35 mins.). Left at 2:10 p.m.

MUC-Munich: TQ-2

1. Passport control (35 mins.).

3. Security (10 mins.). Flight at 9:20 a.m.

ATH-Athens: AQ-1

1. Luggage (30 mins.).

I returned from Athens to St. Louis on July 23.

ATH-Athens: DQ-3

1. Check-in (50 mins.).

2. Security (two mins.).

3. Boarding (20 mins.). Flight at 6 a.m.

FRA-Frankfurt: TQ-3

Walk to check-in (20 mins.).

1. Check-in (10 mins.).

2. Security (five mins.).

3. Boarding (25 mins.). Flight at 8 a.m.

ORD-Chicago (O’Hare): TQ-5

1. Deplane (20 mins.).

2. Passport control (five mins.).

3. Luggage (25 mins.).

4. Customs (two mins.).

5. Boarding (50 mins.). Flight delayed until 3:13 p.m.

STL-St. Louis: AQ-2

1. Arrived 5 p.m. and deplaned (eight mins.).

2. Luggage (20 mins.).

Mildred Hill, Chesterfield, MO

Flight Aug. 26, 2008, from Chicago to LAX on American Airlines, then from LAX to Sydney on Qantas.

ORD-Chicago (O’Hare): DQ-3

1. Check-in (short).

2. Security.

3. Boarding to LAX (very orderly and called by section, then rows).

LAX-Los Angeles: DQ-1

1. Boarding — American and Qantas use the same terminal at LAX and the gates were across from each other.

Esther Perica, Arlington Heights, IL

CDG-Paris: TQ-7 (71 mins.)

Arriving from Budapest at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008, and making a connecting flight to Dulles, Texas.

1. Passport control (four mins.).

2. Wait for transfer bus from Terminal D to Terminal E (15 mins.).

3. Security — I got through, but my husband did not because the agent discovered that our gate was in the other half of Terminal E. I had to be escorted out and met my husband (2 mins.).

4. Wait for the train to transfer to other half of Terminal E (10 mins.).

5. Security — CDG has a special line for business/first-class passengers; however, the agent did not look at our boarding passes and sent us to the back of two lines. (13 mins.).

6. Boarding (11 mins.).

7. Ramp to airplane (16 mins.).

However, our plane was delayed on the ground for over an hour. We were in the airport five hours and five minutes.

Air France claims 45 minutes is a legal connection time. Ha! This experience is exactly why we always schedule ourselves with a 3-hour connection time. I’d rather sit calmly in the airport and read a book than be fruitlessly rushing to the gate to watch my airplane take off without me.

Joan Welch, Indiana, PA

MCO-Orlando, Florida: DQ-2

1. Check-in (10 mins.) on June 24, 2008.

2. Security, at 9:30 a.m. (40 mins.).

PHL-Philadelphia: DQ-1

1. Security, at 2:30 pm. (25 mins.).

Christopher Hartley, Ormond Beach, FL

DTT-Detroit: AQ-3 (90 mins.)

Arriving from Paris’ CDG at 2 p.m. on June 6, 2008.

1. Passport control (10 mins.), after a very long walk.

2. Baggage (35 mins.).

3. Customs (45 mins.) — longest, slowest and worst lines I’ve seen since JFK in the ’70s.

Will never again fly internationally through Detroit.

Joe V., Grand Junction, CO

AKL-Auckland, New Zealand: DQ-4

Flight on Oct. 24, 2008, leaving at 7:30 p.m.

1. Check-in (15 mins.).

2. Security (five mins.).

3. Passport control (five mins.).

4. Boarding (25 mins.).

As a disabled person, my progress through airports differs from that of other passengers. At the Auckland airport, I was moved from the check-in line to a “special assistance” line next to the business-class check-in. The man there did the usual check-in, then helped me to the “Large, etc.” counter to check in my walker.

Next he escorted me to a special area for people needing assistance and notified the desk there that I was departing and needed wheelchair assistance. The wait there was 1½ hours.

At security, I was pushed through a locked gate, given a cursory pass with the wand, then pushed to the front of the passport line. From there I was left in a waiting area, as my flight was delayed and did not have an assigned gate for about 30 minutes. Finally, I was pushed to the gate and was left in another “assistance needed” area, behind the desk.

All this was in addition to the four lines listed above. Similar times are usual at most airports, except that most don’t have the special check-in counter and an area for people needing assistance.

Rosemary Stafford, Pleasant Hill, CA