At some grocery stores, cashiers open an extra checkout station when the lines get long.
Now, when crowds gather at some American Airlines counters at airports in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other busy hubs, staffers may serve them using hand-held devices that print boarding passes and baggage tags.
The device, the size of a large cell phone, is attached to a small printer that hangs from the belts of the airline employees.
Several airlines already let passengers download an electronic boarding pass to a cellphone or PDA, but American Airlines says it has the only portable device in the United States that lets passengers skip the counter altogether even when they have bags to check.
The device, known as YADA - for Your Assistance Delivered Anywhere, will be used primarily when crowds get big because of weather delays or when international flights land and passengers need to make a quick connection, American Airlines spokeswoman Stacey Frantz said.