CUED TO SPEED UP CUSTOMS
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.
News that Aussies will get through Heathrow and start a UK holiday quicker is worth celebrating.