Necessity is the mother of invention – and afterwards everyone asks why no one had thought of it before. Last year, the queues had to reach the street before some airports did it like the museums: they often offer to book time slots for blockbuster exhibitions so that visitors don't step on each other's toes.
So why not also allow travelers to reserve a specific period of time so they don't root with their hand luggage in front of the security checkpoint? German airports were a little hesitant at first. And this despite the fact that there have long been so-called fast lanes for passengers in better classes, with status or for a fee, i.e. fast lanes that shorten the annoying wait.
At the end of August 2022, Berlin's BER Airport was the first in Germany to allow all travelers to book time slots online on a test basis. The system is now established in Terminal 1 and is running so successfully under the name "Berlin Runway" that the number of daily time slots has been increased from 4,000 to 6,000 since the beginning of March.
Ten-minute time slots can be booked no earlier than 72 hours and no later than one hour before departure for Schengen flights and 1.5 hours for non-Schengen flights. The passenger receives the QR code by e-mail as well as information about which access point he needs to go to with his boarding pass. As a rule, this free service reduces the waiting time to five to ten minutes.
Munich Airport has also been testing the time slot method in Terminal 1 since the end of October. The 60-day test was extended to 100 days. The data is currently being evaluated.
The airport's website promises: "This free offer was tested at Munich Airport until 02/16/23 and has not yet been permanently integrated into the service offer." This means that the "Express Queue" could be introduced in the near future , probably free of charge like at the other airports.
In principle, the US company Clear is always the same service provider behind the booking procedures at the airports. Since December, travelers departing from Cologne/Bonn Airport have also been able to book time slots free of charge. The procedure is similar to that of the other airports. The service is called "CGNGateWay". Anyone who uses it, when checking in, drives to the central security check at the pre-booked time - plus/minus ten minutes - and is then guided to the appropriate control lane at a separate entrance.
Frankfurt Airport has also recently been testing the time slot method under the name “FRA Smart Way”. The trial phase is part of a package of measures by the airport worth millions to organize the processes for passengers relatively smoothly despite the lack of staff.
The primary focus is on digitization and automation at the critical points of check-in, baggage drop-off and security control. Since Frankfurt also cooperates with the service provider Clear, the online conditions for passengers are similar to those of the competition. It is currently possible to book fast lanes in Terminals 1 and 2.
As far as foreign countries are concerned, Amsterdam's major airport Schiphol is testing the time slot method on a daily basis. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, so-called fast lanes have become established for ordinary people. Passengers of all classes can book the fast lane at almost every airport. However, this service is not free. The fees are the equivalent of between 5.65 euros and nine euros per person.
Fast Lane pre-booking is currently not working at the mega airport London Heathrow. The express lane may only use those who have a higher fare class or frequent flyer status. Everyone else should book a Business First Class package. This includes not only the express train from the city (Paddington Station) to the airport, but also the separate "Fast Track Lane" in front of the security checkpoint for the proud price of 32 pounds (about 36 euros).
Berlin Airport: ber.berlin-airport.de/de/flying/controls/security-control.html
Munich Airport: munich-airport.de/express-queue-14581386
Cologne/Bonn Airport: koeln-bonn-airport.de/fluege/abflug-ankunft.html
Frankfurt Airport: frankfurt-airport.com/de/travelpreparation/check-in-baggage-und-controls/fra-smartway.html
Airport Schiphol Amsterdam: schiphol.nl/en/page/timeslotspilot/
London Heathrow Airport: heathrow.com/at-the-airport/airport-services/fast-track and heathrowexpress.com