by Will Schreiber

Fragile passengers

I tolerate longer lines when buying coffee than I do when going through the airport. Why?

I got a push notification at 5:15 this morning on the dot: “Your Lyft has arrived. Gabe will wait for 5 minutes.” Right on time.

We crossed town, and then crossed the Williamsburg Bridge. As we rode up 278, we passed a car flipped upside-down going the other way. Traffic back into the city was miles long. Not for us, though. We got to LGA in 26 minutes.

A screen posted in front of the CLEAR PreCheck line said it was a 10 minute wait. 15 minutes for normal PreCheck. 5 minutes for no PreCheck.

I decided 5 minutes wasn’t worth taking my shoes off, so I stuck with the CLEAR line. The guy behind me mouthed off to a CLEAR employee, “This line’s so long, what’s the point of paying all this money?!” He was told to go through the normal security line. And let’s be honest, Amex paid his membership fee.

Soon it was my turn to scan my eyes. “Random ID Check” flashed on the screen. I started getting annoyed as I dug into my bag for my wallet.

After the TSA agent scanned my ID, I loaded my bags into the X-Ray and walked right through the metal detector. “BEEP BEEP BEEP.” Another random check.

Am I on a security watchlist?!?!

As I stood waiting for three elderly women to get their hip implants manually scanned, I started bouncing up and down, watching my bag as it sat at the far end of the conveyor belt.

I started doing my best dad-looking-for-the-nowhere-to-be-found-waiter impression, craning my neck as I dramatically looked around for more TSA agents.

Nobody came. So I waited about three minutes, got a pat-down, then was reunited with my bag. A couple minutes after that, I had a steaming mug of Americano and a view of planes taking off inside the brand new Terminal C SkyClub.

Travel is so seamless now.

Instant chauffeur pickup via an app. Iris scanners to speed up security. A ticket that loads into Apple Wallet. Push notifications for delays. Lounges filled with free food and coffee while I wait to board a $100 million piece of equipment, maintained by an army of mechanics, piloted by an ever-rotating crew of employees, which will fly me hundreds and thousands of miles away. Usually on-time. Often early.

And yet there’s this pervasive frustration passengers have the moment they enter a terminal.

I somehow expect shorter lines and fewer delays from Delta Airlines than I do from the local Italian spot. A restaurant can bump my reservation, tell me they’re running an hour late, charge me $100/pp, and I’ll still recommend the experience to a friend.

But a flight that costs half of a dinner with wine in NYC? If they don’t get me there 10 minutes early, you’ll never hear the end of it.