Normally, making your way through an airport in the United States is the most painful part of any overseas business trip. Off comes the belt! Off comes the shoes! Out comes the laptop! There is a less painful process — but normally Australians don't get to use it. Last week, I got lucky.
Picture: Getty Images
TSA Pre is a scheme that the US government offers to frequent flyers that speeds you through airports. The initial registration is fiddly and painful, since you have to register your fingerprints at a specified airport (a process similar to scoring a visa to visit the US if you need it). But the benefit is potentially large: you can go through a separate queue at TSA Pre-equipped airports, and you don't have to remove your shoes or take your laptop out of the bag while it's scanned.
I've known about TSA Pre ever since it was established, but never paid it too much attention, since Australians aren't eligible to sign up for it. However, when I was returning from San Francisco last week, the security dude who was initially checking boarding passes told me I could use the TSA Pre line anyway. There were only half-a-dozen passengers around, and we all got to use that queue.
One of my fellow fliers commented that the same thing had happened to him the last time he flew from SFO. "I think they're trying to persuade us it would be a good time to sign up." Maybe. Maybe it's a way to train staff to do the slightly different scanning that's required. But I wasn't about to pass the option up.
I travel so often that I have my security queue behaviour finely tuned. Normally when I reach the actual queue, I already have my laptop (or laptops) in hand, my pockets empty and my shoes off. And I didn't think I minded.
But there is something really pleasing about not going through all those extra levels of security theatre . My bag went on the conveyer belt. It was scanned. I walked through the scanner. Nothing went off. The whole process was fast, easy, painless.
I'd love to see this introduced in Australia. I'd love to be able to sign up for it in the US. No, it will never happen. But a man can dream, can't he?
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman is still making sure he flies with easily removable shoes. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.