On my way home, really!

It was touch-and-go for a while — I arrived at the Dublin airport with over 2 hours time left, but then American paranoia struck. Would you believe I had to wait in a long, slow-moving line to get my boarding pass, because they’d also check your passport and give you a long grilling about all the mischief you’d been up to in Ireland? And then you’d line up for Irish customs? Then Irish security? Then to enter the American Pre-Clearance Zone? Then for American customs? Then American security, again? I spent over two hours slowly shuffling forward in line. When I finally emerged from the mess, the plane was finishing up final boarding and they were about to close the jetway doors.

Very exciting. I’ll have to remember to give myself plenty of leeway next time I’m in Ireland (may there be many opportunities!)

Anyway, I’m still not home. I’m in Chicago. Then Fargo, then the drive, then the shamble into the shower and the collapse into the bed.


  1. says

    I had 3 hours this morning and barely made it to my plane to Germany, and that without the whole American preclearance thing. The security screening at Dublin seems designed for slowest possible throughput with greatest amount of personal intrusion. Very annoying.

  2. says

    You’ll lose that bet.

    Also, what contributed to my delay was the combination of sluggish Irish processing plus redundant and ridiculous US Homeland Security contributions to the mess.

  3. Karen Locke says

    There’s this nice lady living in your house. Perhaps you should reaquaint yourselves.

  4. latsot says

    It sounds like we managed to drive across to the west coast of Ireland in the time it took you to get through the airport.

  5. Becca Stareyes says

    Wow, that sounds worse than the last time I went to Europe, which was only two years ago.

    Granted, the first flight in the trip home was domestic (not even intra-EU), so at that point, it was probably easier to just hope the European customs folks did their job and catch me when I landed in Detroit.

  6. lambert says

    Much the same experience last week. I was flying from Glasgow to JFK via Dublin. On arrival in Dublin my cabin bags were x-rayed after going through the connecting flights area, then they were x-rayed again after going though EU passport control. Then after the 90 minute shuffle though ‘USA Preclearance’ when I finally got to speak to a nice US customs chappie – who asked me to ID my checked bag from a photograph that was taken as I put it on the belt in Glasgow – it was plain sailing (after yet another x-ray of the cabin bags).

  7. tbp1 says

    Sounds like leaving St. Petersburg, except there was no American security there. I had to present my documents a bunch of times at a number of different security points, and since the crucial “visa registration” you have to get within a short time of entering the country, and which is usually acquired for you by your hotel, is in Russian only, I had no idea if it was the right document or not. At each point the official stared at my passport picture, then back at me, then back the picture, several times, as if they didn’t quite believe it was me. And it’s actually a very accurate picture, clearly me. (I experienced the same thing leaving East Berlin when the Wall was still up.) Then the airport itself looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the Khrushchev days and only about 1/3 of the ceiling lights were working, so it was dark and dingy, not to mention cold. Honestly I adored St. Petersburg, and would love to go back, but they make it very difficult to be a tourist (don’t get me started on the process of getting the tourist visa in the first place, although I do like the way my name looks transliterated into Russian).

    Oh, and did I mention that my wife and I flew back to the US from London Heathrow the day after the underwear bomber incident? Now THAT was a fun day.

  8. blf says

    Then it’s changed radically. The last fight to USAlienstan I took from Dublin — this was shortly after the shoe-bomber incident — the security consisted of a sole Garda waving a hand-held metal detector around just inside the main doors (no idea what he would do if he actually found something), Irish border control with the usual metal-detector stargate and an X-Ray machine for carry-on baggage, and that was it… albeit I do know from previous times the checkin desk does check yer passport. (No USAalien pre-clearance that I can recall.) Whole procedure had to be under an hour, albeit I cannot now recall the time or the queue sizes.

    Security in the transit centre in Heathrow was the usual stargate metal detector and another X-Ray machine. Long queues, however.

    It was at fecking LAX that the silliness happened. I’d just spent zillions of hours in the air on an international flight, departing from one and transiting through another major airport, and now need to catch a 12-ish seater turboprop “commuter” flight.

    Idiots insist I take off my shoes. Like I fly all the fecking way from Dublin just to blow up a half-empty Bombardier in California’s sky.

  9. Krasnaya Koshka says

    tbp1 @9 – Yeah, the visa requirements here are pretty rough and fairly expensive (I live in Saint Petersburg). The airport was in poor shape but they’ve fixed it up a lot and they’re building some humongous new terminal so it should be somewhat modern pretty soon. I’ve never had a problem in Russian airports (and I fly on average twice a month); my biggest PITAs have been at LAX. Good gravy, I hate that airport. JFK is also gnarly for waiting times, though their TSA crew are not as awful as L.A.

    You’ll have to come back and check out the new airport here when it’s built!

    Dublin sounds like a nightmare! Yikes! But good to know before I go there. *Get there plenty early.*

  10. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Yeah, you must have been in Ireland…

    …because the time it took you to get through airport security was Dublin!

    /read the above as if said by someone continually breaking into laughter.
    /then groan

  11. tbp1 says

    @11: I really do hope to come back to St. Petersburg, visa hassles and all. I just squeezed in a few days at the end of a work-related trip to Helsinki, and my wife couldn’t come at all. We’re musicians, and the musical history of St. Petersburg is so amazing (much more important musically than Moscow). I barely touched the great museums and palaces. I want to spend considerably more time there, this time with my wife, who is a Shostakovich groupie. Good to know the airport will be in better shape.

  12. Sili says

    Thanks. I’d better leave a bit earlier Friday then.

    How’s the hangover, rorschach?

  13. naturalcynic says

    What would you expect when you’re leaving the ancestral home of shenanigans.

  14. nogodsnomasters says

    … really? When we left yesterday I checked in with the machines in front of the Aer Lingus desk (even with my American passport though I was flying home to the UK) which took seconds, dropped my checked in bag off at the desk which took maybe 10 minutes for the line, went through security which had maybe 5 people there (the officer wanted to steal my Maltesers) and was sat down at the pub for a good hour before I found out my flight was delayed for an hour so I shopped and slept and shopped again…
    Then when we landed in Birmingham, security consisted of a guy allowing 4 people through at a time without so much as a look at a passport (or my residency card) and customs was literally a doorway and no one was there. Apparently, Birmingham doesn’t care who comes in after dark.

  15. says

    How’s the hangover

    If you refer to the regrettable medical condition that prevented me from partaking in large parts of the second day, thank you, it has improved by now. Nothing some original Swebian food and wine can’t fix.

  16. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    the American Pre-Clearance Zone? Then for American customs? Then American security, again

    The what now? I don’t remember those from flying out of Heathrow and Stansted. *puzzled*

    The weirdest security I ever went through was taking the Friday night United redeye from JFK to LHR: no security. Like, literally, waved through; no questions, no searches, nothing.

    Apparently, they don’t care if you blow up the plane as long as you do it on its way out of the US, even if the plane is full of Americans (plus Fergie¹).

    ¹ The former Duchess of York, not the Black Eyed Peas singer. Definitely not Alex Ferguson. ;-)

  17. Christopher Denney says

    Both times I have been to Europe I flew in to Heathrow (round trip ticket from US to UK) then separately purchased any further tickets. Directly buying Ryan air or BMI or Aer Lingus is way cheaper than as a connecting flight purchased through one of the big US airlines. Or it was when I did it.

  18. Sili says


    I suspect Fergie’s presence was what made them *want* the plane to blow up.

  19. robro says

    Don’t you like theatre, PZ? I’m sure it was some of the best acting you’ve ever seen…so life like. Impeccable costuming. And truly vérité scenery. Why…in a few more years, you can just stay in the airport when you get somewhere so you can start the return process with plenty of time to leave.

  20. jefferylanam says

    cm, US Customs maintains pre-clearance facilities at a few airports, including Dublin and Shannon. Most of the major Canadian and a few Caribbean airports have them. It’s supposed to speed your entry into the US, since you don’t have to clear Customs on arrival. If PZ hadn’t gone through pre-clearance in Dublin, he’d have spent longer in Chicago, presumably, and possibly missing the flight to Fargo.

    That’s the idea, anyway.

  21. robro says

    Jafafa Hots — Indeed, and just think how much safer your travel is if you weren’t going outside the airport when you travel. Perhaps this will be the impetus for the invention of an actual Holo-deck.

  22. says

    I recall two wonderful signs at Dublin airport:

    1) By a downwards excalator, “If you don’t know how to use the escalator, please use the stairs which are adjacent”


    2) On a glass door “Automatic door, push to open”

    Well, I thought they were funny….

  23. David Marjanović says

    That is weird. I flew from Berlin to Raleigh/Durham via JFK last year; before checking in I had to show my return ticket to prove I wasn’t going to steal your job, but that was it – no interview, no customs, nothing more than an intra-Schengen flight. I was pleasantly surprised.

    Of course, when I arrived in JFK, my suitcase was unloaded and I had to check it in again, because everything that arrives in the US is immediately unloaded. That’s where I had to pass immigration & customs. On an intra-Schengen flight I need to present my passport at most.

  24. franko says

    As a Brit, I experience 1-2 hours in the arrival line every time I visit the USA, to get through immigration and customs. The curious thing about PZ’s experience is that Dublin is one of the few airports set up, as I understand it, so you don’t have to pass through any checks when you arrive Stateside. This was meant to speed up everything for US citizens and non-citizens alike. If this supposed “advantage” of departing from Dublin has regressed to the farcical point in the post, then travellers might as well petition to do away with it.

  25. davem says

    This all sounds like my experience at Miami, en route from Mexico to London. We discover that Miami has no transit lounge, so we have to go through the whole immigration and emigration process. Farcical. “How long are you staying in the United States, sir?”. “About 15 minutes”. “Do you have a valid visa?”. “Yes” (that was lucky!). Several didn’t have visas,and were marched off by armed guards. One of our party was arrested for possessing an orange, and frog marched to the departure lounge, where she wanted to be anyway. All this before you guys became paranoid about foreigners.

  26. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    @jefferylanam, “US Customs maintains pre-clearance facilities” … I have learned something today!

    The first time I went to the US (1990-ish, LAX), the INS were almost welcoming. Less so, the baggage handlers towards my rucksack, which finally emerged after about 3 hours of me staring at an empty carousel. ~:-(

  27. anchor says

    I used to love flying.

    Through the late ’50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and ’90’s.

    It was a pleasure to move through the marvelous places called “AIRPORTS” which were ultra cool facilities specifically designed to efficiently conduct passengers to and from aircraft departing and arriving with a reasonable minimum of interference from customs and/or security concerns.

    Being at an airport was once part of the fun of the adventure that led to the sky. It really used to be a cool place to hang while waiting for a trip through the stratosphere.

    Not anymore.

    Yet that activity WAS absolutely positively conducted with sufficient security: after all, big jets full of fuel capable of getting hijacked and potentially forced to slam into targets have been around since the mid-50’s.

    Yet that unthinkable thing didn’t happen for nearly a half-century.

    Then it happened.


    When it happened something else was ready to make it so much worse.

    By 2001 something besides that particular terrorist act was in place which has since performed the bulk of the real damage the ‘terrorists’ wished for.

    There is a widespread popular and official consensus that the threat of ‘terrorism’ post 9-11 requires constant and extreme vigilance in order to prevent the kind of disaster that transpired on that date. Yet everyone who has any brains knows deep down that the damage procured by those terrorist acts have been orchestrated almost completely in the reaction. The terrorists knew full well they didn’t need to add to what they had already accomplished in the one and only single big act they needed to inflict: they knew we would do the rest of their dirty work to ourselves, and they knew full well it would bug us where it would hurt us the most: in our so-called economy. All they needed to make sure of was that their ONE STRIKE was strong enough to make the potential threat of a repeat sufficiently worrisome to us. They would (and did) sit back and watch the show…and we gave it to them: glorious entertainment.

    To compound the problem, the rest of the world followed suit BECAUSE it was perceived as a threat to the common economic machinery.

    Stupidity, it seems, is not restricted to individuals, but must obviously extend across the entire world of wealthy nations.

    Because their common economy (I am being facetious: nations are NOT the only wealthy entities in the world who actually call the shots) is so goddamned precious that they are willing to make preserving the system prohibitively expensive for everyone but them.

    One is moved to compare the situation – now over a DOZEN YEARS ON with not a single significant additional attack – to that which the British people endured in another and extremely serious war, with a DAILY THREAT of sudden death by bomb raining from the skies from an arguably equally nefarious source – YET they managed to maintain their composure and were quite spectacularly adamant at going about their usual business in spite of the threat.


    Compare that to the US reaction – Americans responding to the 21st century terrorist threat of 9/11 – and anyone can see the consequent pathetic display of wimps. The not so curious thing is that if it was not for the conservative religious republican apparatus in charge at the time, those who so frequently blow their wad on how important it is to maintain or demonstrate (especially military and, uh, intelligence) “strength”, we might not have distracted ourselves into doing the very worst of precisely what the terrorists expected us to inflict on ourselves.

    The US certainly had no leadership anywhere near along the lines of a Churchill.

    [Filed under unbridled hubris and limitless conceit]

    At least I am still (so far) free to admire clouds from the ground.