I’ve been watching the storm-in-the-tea-cup panic across the national press about immigration delays with interest.
I travel frequently and ever since I can remember getting back into the UK has been nothing but a hassle. Heathrow is my local airport so I’ve more experience there, however I’ve also regularly arrived into Stansted. At both airports I’m never surprised to find hundreds of people in front of me and I always aim for at least an hour’s worth of standing around queuing.
Stansted has routinely been a shocker for me. Tens of desks with only 3 officers working on them. That sort of thing. I’m only pleased that since I’ve a British passport I can avoid the extensive ‘alien’ queue that the poor Americans have to join. It’s immensely frustrating coming off a 300-passenger plane and finding — as I say — 2-3 immigration officers manning the desks when five or six planes, each with a few hundred passengers have clearly just arrived.
I’m always moved to wonder what idiot planned the resources. It’s not as if arriving planes are a surprise and that the waiting team is therefore taken by surprise. I’m always left to conclude that it’s deliberate. Or unintentionally unhelpful. Or, deliberately unhelpful.
Give them more money and more resource. It’s a simple calculation. The country looks rubbish.
That said, America’s immigration queues are legendary. I always expect at least 90 minutes being spoon-fed the ‘welcome to America’ promo video in the various immigration stations at America’s airports. Just this week I landed at Orlando and was seriously unimpressed to be repeatedly reminded that I had ‘entered a federally secured area’ and that I wasn’t allowed to use my mobile phone. For 60 flipping minutes.
Luckily I came prepared. I took a copy of The Week magazine with me especially for this purpose. I’m pleased to say that almost exactly 60 minutes after being warned to put away my mobile, I’d finished The Week and been summonsed to give my fingerprints and mugshot at the desk. Quicker than many UK experiences I’ve had though.
I haven’t got one of those Iris scan things. I am always envious of those folk who can breeze through. Although I have seen it fail as many times as I’ve seen it work.
I also need to give some thought to getting my passport renewed so it comes with the chip or whatever — as that queue at UK immigration always seems to be much shorter.
In the end though I suppose this issue is all about timing. Arrive into the UK at 6pm on Friday and I reckon you should probably expect delays.
Me? Well I was lucky (?) enough to arrive at Gatwick yesterday at 645am and as a result I waited about 20 seconds to get through immigration.
If you have any tips please do let me know. I’m considering signing up for that American ‘world travel’ thing that gives you speedy immigration. Is there anything else I should doing?