Pratik

Nerve Endings Firing Away

Although international airlines have started direct flights to and from Austin, the airport is woefully equipped to handle the load.

It has only one conveyor belt for international arrivals, which inexplicably is before the immigration check-in in one smallish hall. They can’t handle it if two international flights land within the same hour. That’s what happened to us. The Lufthansa flight that landed before ours was supposed to take their bags and clear immigration before our flight landed.

But they didn’t. So we had to stand in a narrow corridor for at least an hour that snaked so far back that the airport had to shut down the escalator that brought us down a level.

Austin Airport line post-international arrival

In a bizarre sorting, they let people without checked-in bags go ahead, but I thought, who does that on an international flight but apparently, there were a few.

But thanks to our newly-acquired Global Entry, the rest was unexpectedly fast due to a newly-rolled out facial recognition-enabled kiosks. These are so efficient that you almost forget the obvious scary implications on privacy.

You take your ‘selfie’ at the kiosk camera, and it prints out a receipt with your name and other information if it identifies you, which it did for all three of us. You get directed to the front of the line to confirm that receipt with the immigration officer and show your passport (which I read is not always required), and you can leave the airport. The time for us when we were let into the baggage claim hall after that long undesirable wait and out of the airport was literally 5-7 minutes.

Austin Airport must do more if it wants to be considered a serious international destination. Our flight was Virgin Atlantic’s first direct flight from London to Austin, and Richard Branson, who was on our flight and greeted us while exiting the plane, has indicated that they’ll have daily flights next spring. So will other airlines. I shudder to think of the chaos if things remain the same.


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