Spending a lot of time in airports is an occupational hazard in the glamorous and fast moving world of IT consultancy. Most of us are intimate with the various methods of tuning Oracle databases and Siebel CRM but here are some quick tips about optimizing the airport experience.

  1. Most airlines have succeeded in shifting the massive queues from the check-in desks to smaller queues at the self-service kiosks. The most obvious method to avoid this is to check-in online and print out your own boarding pass from the comfort of the office. One word of caution - ensure you have the hardcopy of the boarding pass in your hands before leaving the Web page. If, for any reason, printing is unsuccessful, it is impossible to check-in online a second time to print the page again. It is a little embarrassing to explain to the customer service agent that an unknown pre-sales guy mistakenly took your boarding pass as it was sandwiched between his 89 page RFC. Worse, it also wastes a lot of time.
  2. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to attach your own luggage labels thinking this will save time. The baggage label must be coiled in a loop Origami-style and stuck together in a very specific way. Please, I urge you, leave this to the experts at the Fast Bag Drop desk.
  3. Look nervously at your shoes and repeatedly wipe your sweaty brow in the queue for security screening. This behaviour guarantees that you will be ‘randomly selected’ by BAA security staff to go through the new full body scanner. Don’t worry when other passengers start giggling as you are asked to raise both arms and stand on one leg to assume a star shape. Revenge will be sweet when you are re-introduced at the head of the queue in front of the X-ray machine, skipping 23 people and saving a vital 17 minutes.
  4. In the current climate, passengers are increasingly asked to remove their belts and shoes as part of security checks. Save time by investing in a pair of black, leather slip-ons. No need to waste time struggling to tie up your shoe laces. Consider buying some tighter trousers that don’t need a belt.
  5. Always select a seat at the back of the plane. Do not think you will disembark quicker if you are located near the front of the aircraft. You won’t. Everyone else thinks the same way so the most determined, forceful personalities will always be seated in rows 1-18. You also risk being struck by an oversized case (that should have gone into the hold) from the overhead lockers. Worse, your brain will be irradiated by the hordes of business types eagerly turning their mobile phones back on after being incommunicado for a whole 55 minutes.
  6. Make a date with Iris. In the UK, you can register to trial the optical recognition system at immigration. Watch your colleagues from Consulting gasp in amazement as you leave them behind in a lengthy queue as you waltz up to the empty Iris desk and quickly make your way out of the terminal.
  7. Use a professional, competent taxi company and arrange to be collected at the airport. This may seem blindingly obvious but for reasons that now escape me, for a period, I used a completely incompetent taxi firm who were always late for the rendezvous, didn’t have the right change for the car-park and couldn’t even find my home address. The final straw came when they woke my family, in the middle of the night, by ringing my door bell at 05:45 for a 06:00 pickup.
  8. The ever increasing capacity and falling prices of USB memory sticks now make it possible to think the unthinkable. Leave your laptop behind. Copy your mini-technical library onto a memory stick. I have done this on a couple of domestic engagements and it is truly liberating. My dodgy, aching back is also feeling the benefit. You can normally access SupportWeb, MetaLink and collect email from most customer sites.

One advantage of being severed from the laptop is that it really focuses the mind on what technical material is truly essential to do your job. Consequently, you incrementally build up relevant content on the stick. It is also perfectly feasible to copy all your email folders onto a memory stick. The only element I have occasionally missed is my own Siebel 7.8/Oracle 10g sandbox environment. Have a good trip.

[An edited version of this article was originally published in the Spring 2007 edition of the Expert Services’ Newsletter where, unsurprisingly, it was met with a stony silence.]