A Time Saving Traveler


Air Mail :: American Way :: November 1, 2006

I don't know what's worse, that I'm on a road a lot or that I actually flip through the American Airlines magazine sometimes. I actually found an item there, sent in by a fellow DFW traveler (Jay Hohfeler of Coppell, Texas) that saved me about 20 minutes on Friday. This really only helps if you parked at a different terminal than the one at which you arrived.

Basically, the traveler's idea was to change his process flow from:

  1. Deplane at A terminal
  2. Go to baggage claim and wait for bag (non-value added, waste of waiting)
  3. Go out to curb and wait for inter-terminal bus (waste of waiting, particularly for the bus.)
  4. Take bus to C terminal
  5. Get in car and leave

The better process flow, which I tried:

  1. Deplane at A terminal
  2. Take airport train to C terminal (this is much faster and there's less waste of waiting)
  3. Leave terminal, get car
  4. Drive to A terminal and park in 1-hour passenger pickup parking
  5. Go inside and get suitcase
  6. Go back to car and leave

The guy who wrote into American Airlines must be a Lean Thinker! Rather than standing there waiting for your suitcase, he replaced that waiting time with more productive activity. Sure enough, when I got back to Terminal A, my suitcase was just dropping onto the carousel.

That's a great lesson in Lean — sometimes you get much more efficient by changing the process and doing things in a different sequence rather than trying to do the old process faster, by working harder.

Maybe it's hard to appreciate the situation without walking through it personally, but there's a nice lean lesson there.

Jay wrote:

My plan is faster and more comfortable, and it makes your bag easy to pick out when you go to claim it because the crowds and amount of bags have thinned. I'll admit, at the risk of looking like I have no life, that I've tested and timed both options.

He timed it. I love it. Maybe the only risk is a slightly increased chance of having you bag stolen?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Even if he got there later the bags probably made it to the AA office for holding.

    I don’t think many people steal bags since they know that it is likely the person’s bag they are stealing might be right there in the crowd.

    This idea would be ideal in the NJ Airport where they have 3 terminals.

  2. Good tip for those of us who fly from DFW (like me). This reminds me of how I changed my arrival process when I park off site and have checked bags that are hard to carry:

    Old process:
    1) Park at off-site lot.
    2) Lug baggage from car to shuttle to skycap
    3) Proceed to counter/gate.

    New process:
    1) Drive to skycap and check baggage.
    2) Park at off-site lot.
    3) Proceed to counter/gate.

    The new process involves more driving and time, but avoids a lot of baggage carrying.

  3. Of course the real ‘lean’ solution is to have a terminal that delivers bags quickly, like mine can. DFW is not one of those airports.

    And, bags do get stolen. It’s not likely, but is common enough I wouldn’t want to add any opportunity.

  4. I bet there’s a higher chance of the bag getting lost by the airline than stolen at the terminal. When I ran back in to get my bag, I certainly had the claim check with me and was ready to show it if need be.

    The one (and maybe only) thing I like about DFW is the terminal layout. Everything is in parallel — parking, baggage, security, the gate. If you know you’re leaving from A12, you park right by A12, walk in, go through security near A12, and walk to A12. Very little “side to side” walking.

    DFW doesn’t have large batch checkpoints that back up badly. The load is spread out across many small checkpoints. I’m sure that’s more expensive for the TSA and/or the airport, but that’s how the airport was designed. Most airports, you come in via the main terminal checkpoint then walk forever. When you get home at DFW, assuming you landed near where you parked/departed, it’s VERY quick getting out to your car, which is important for getting home quickly


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