CUED TO SPEED UP CUS­TOMS

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - HOW I TRAVEL - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

If you’ve ever felt your life slip­ping away while stand­ing in the drudgery of a long im­mi­gra­tion queue, the news that Aussies will soon be able to use ePass­port gates at Lon­don’s Heathrow Air­port is like win­ning the travel lot­tery.

I al­ways brace my­self for a wait if land­ing in LAX but I’d for­got­ten the pains of Heathrow un­til this year.

While stand­ing in a par­tic­u­larly long ar­rivals queue in May, im­mi­gra­tion staff, ob­vi­ously scared of a scene, started roam­ing the roped-off rows hand­ing out crisps, bis­cuits and muesli bars to buoy peo­ple’s mood. (Tell me, would a packet of chicken chips buy your love?)

In com­par­i­son, fly­ing into Gatwick last De­cem­ber, im­mi­gra­tion was so quick I al­most thought I’d taken a wrong turn.

I was out in min­utes, beat­ing bags to the carousel, since most of the traf­fic was off Eu­ro­pean car­ri­ers, with WEST­MIN­STER BRIDGE just a trickle of non-EU pas­sen­gers.

I think of im­mi­gra­tion lines like a Padrón pep­per roulette – you never re­ally quite know what to ex­pect; whether you’ll run into a crush or sashay out think­ing, “wait, was that it?!” But if you want to speed up the process at next touch­down, use th­ese help­ful hints.

PICK THE RIGHT FLIGHT

When toss­ing up which flight to book, search the air­port ar­rivals sched­ule for that times­lot and see if it’s go­ing to be rammed. Would it pay to put your money on a smoother ar­rival?

CHOOSE THE RIGHT SEAT

Be strate­gic about seat se­lec­tion. Savvy trav­ellers al­ways sit on the left, where the exit is, and as close to the front as pos­si­ble. But if you find your­self fur­ther back, opt for the right­hand side. As your row starts to flow out, those on the left have to give way.

USE TECH TO YOUR AD­VAN­TAGE

Fly­ing into the States? If you have an ESTA (which is es­sen­tial) and have been to the US at least once, us­ing your cur­rent pass­port, since 2008, skip the line and head straight for one of the Au­to­mated Pass­port Con­trol kiosks.

The TripIt app in­tro­duced re­al­time se­cu­rity wait times ear­lier this year – send­ing you an alert three hours be­fore you land.

Un­for­tu­nately, it’s cur­rently only avail­able at air­ports in Austin, Den­ver, Or­lando and Phoenix.

BOOK A PREMIUM SER­VICE

Some air­ports of­fer VIP Fast Track ser­vices, which can be an af­ford­able and pain-free way of scoot­ing through the im­mi­gra­tion process.

Gen­er­ally an agent will meet you at the ar­rival gate with a wel­come sign, help to carry your bags, and di­rect you through a pre-ar­ranged chan­nel, mak­ing sure you get on your way with­out de­lay.

TAKE THE FAST TRACK LINE WITH­OUT FLY­ING BUSI­NESS

Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong of­fer fast track pro­grams for fre­quent trav­ellers. In Hong Kong, you can ap­ply for the En­rolled Fre­quent Vis­i­tor pro­gram while you wait for your lug­gage.

It’s avail­able to all Aus­tralian pass­port hold­ers, even for those on their first visit.

Sin­ga­pore is a lit­tle more com­pli­cated but check out en­hancedIm­mi­gra­tion Au­to­mated Clear­ance Sys­tem for more info.

Some air­ports such as Manch­ester and Dublin will of­fer you Fast Track for pur­chase upon check-in.

PIC­TURE: IS­TOCK

News that Aussies will get through Heathrow and start a UK hol­i­day quicker is worth cel­e­brat­ing.

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