It is one of my unrealistic dreams that one day people will learn that crowding around the baggage claim area does not make your baggage come any quicker. I feel it makes the whole process a lot more annoying and slower. If everybody stood back, more people could see their bags and walk up to claim them as the belt brought it to them.
In this rather lengthy thread about the problem, it was described as an example of the prisoner's dilemma where:
two completely "rational" individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so
Unfortunately, this only works if most people are willing to stand back. Then everyone gets a wider field of view, but often this is not the case.
Those people who travel with only carry on luggage get to avoid this frustration altogether.
Some airports have bags exit from above the belt where you can see them from a distance.
Reasons I have seen people claim they crowd the baggage belt:
- in a hurry
- someone else will take their luggage (even though they have less view of the bags and people walking away from the carousel with their bag)
- they have poor eyesight and cannot determine their bag from a distance
One way to alleviate people accidentally taking your luggage, is to make it stand out so it is less likely to be mistaken. A distinctive bag will also be more visible from a distance.
Racing to the baggage claim is often a futile task as well. It will depend on the airport layout, immigration lines, but most times my bags have beaten me to the baggage claim area. I find it can be a good time to take a toilet break, because it is much easier when you don't have your extra luggage to carry and take care of.
Hopefully in the near future, airports will devise an efficient system for claiming your baggage at the airport.
There is even a book called "Step Back from the Baggage Claim"