Queueing Theory Lesson Needed for Mumbai Airport

One of the first things I learnt during my first Communications course at Columbia University during my Masters was the M/M/1 Queue Model. Simply put, it states that it is much more efficient to have a single queue when there are multiple servers.  The person at the head of the queue goes to the first free server. This optimises (minimises) wait time for every one.

The security check at the new terminal in the Mumbai airport  (amongset zillions of other places) does exactly the opposite. There is a separate queue for each combo of baggage screening machine and the security personnel who check you. On a recent Monday morning, I happened to be stuck on one of the slow moving lines and couldn’t help wondering about a lesson I had learnt more the two decades ago!

There are times when I wonder why we need to reinvent solutions to problems the world has figured out and solved. We have enough other problems to worry about than trying to be creative with wrong solutions. Or, is it simply our TII (“This is India”) Syndrome?!

11 thoughts on “Queueing Theory Lesson Needed for Mumbai Airport

  1. Security screening is one of the critical bottlenecks and messed not only by the queuing issue you mentioned but also by inadequate staff and equipment. I once took 15 minutes in a queue in Kolkata and my Mom and Wife spent 30 minutes (due to inadequate female security staff) and we delayed the departure of aircraft by 5 minutes. Airline staff were also helpless as cutting the queue would attract wrath of others (and could even create a dharna like situation by other passengers in Kolkata)

    We have Managers and Vice Presidents sitting and attending meeting after meeting and fire fighting critical issues. There is no time for such trivial operational details as they think there are for low level employees or government (AAI & CISF) to look at. May be some Phoren (I mean Foreign) Consultant will be called to advise, who will do a great! study and dish-out a glossy report for few millions. The report will be released to a Minister/Secretary, attract publicity from press and then gather dust.
    We will continue to have such issues and tolerate the great Indian way.

    I have few more issues to add:
    1) Lack of Plain and Hot water (Airports think we must drink cold water alone)
    2) Strong Popcorn smell in Mumbai Airport new domestic terminal – They either forgot to add an exhaust or intentionally kept it as it is to attract customers!
    3) Inadequate and less hygienic toilets in most terminals (better in newly built)
    4) Bottlenecks in Entry / Exit to Airports from service roads (great example is delay in entry from Santacruz in Western expressway to Domestic terminal in Mumbai. I have spent from 15 to 45 minutes in this junction – also complicated due to delay in flyover construction)

  2. You want a simple reason? These AI or airport officials, higher Govt Officials never wait in a Q ! So for them these problem never exist and they never needed a solution too! lol!

    Osai Chella..
    Founder: BlogChai.com
    “your daily cup of blog chai!”

  3. Hi Rajesh,

    I am most impressed by your point that why is India not even able to replicate simple solutions to problems already resolved by others?

    Unfortunately Its a war that can not be won by bloggers and journalists. In fact its a war that our leaders in charge also do not believe they can win.

    Unless someone has money, power, fame, strong emotional ties or some rational reasoning, the final destination for most of present and future generations of children of Indian citizens, who have higher awareness for valuing and experiencing life, is not India but some other country.

    Another example is Chandigarh, my native city which was founded in 1950s. Its a well planned city but its successes were not picked up by any other. Not even today’s gurgaon has infrastructure like underground sewage system, etc. that was put in place in Chandigarh some 50 years ago.

    I run NRIs for India in silicon valley. Right now, its a small group of indifferent people who do not want to do anything more than little debate and discussion and lots of “networking”.

    Thats all most of Indian are or have become.
    I believe, we Indians are taught indifference as a value that we must carry in order to “enjoy” our personal successes and not get mired in all the troubles and misery that surrounds us. How else would you explain our national leaders taking up issues that do not even reflect the misery of common Indian citizen? Within 100 miles of their homes, there are everyday cases of burglary, house break, bonded labor, medical frauds, carjacking, kidnapping, rage, corruption, misuse of power, frauds and forgery of all kinds?



  4. Forget the Queue (can’t agree more with you on it), there are very basic things missing from the commen man’s life: clean water, air, roads etc. etc.

  5. hi ,You want a simple reason? These AI or airport officials, higher Govt Officials never wait in a Q ! So for them these problem never exist and they never needed a solution too! lol!

  6. I am not sure you got the premise right Rajesh. So we have a market based system here. The smart person observes the queues, picks the right one, and is rewarded for that. Not everyone is treated equal (which would be the case in your system).

  7. Do you ever wonder why the queue you are in always ends up being the slowest? arrrrgh!!!