Monday, January 16, 2012

iPads on planes during takeoff? Hell I'd like to use it in the airport!

People have been asking for iPads, and Kindles, to be used during takeoff and landing (like Pilots can) but for me that isn't a massive deal, yes I'd like to read my online Economist from the iPad when I'm travelling and sure it can be a bit of a pain to have to use old style paper... but I've got a bigger gripe.

The CBP (Customers and Border Protection) and their mental policies at immigration.  Now putting aside the normal 'welcome to America' of 1 bloke for the Rest of the World and 15 for the 20 Americans on the flight, or the ridiculous number of times my passport has to be checked in the UK (THREE TIMES! on this trip).  Or the questions that sometimes border on the clinically insane.  No my complaint is simple.

I use TripIt for my travel, its a great service, but the reality is that for the last 10 years I've not printed out a hotel reservation, for two reasons

  1. I know where the hotel is
  2. Its on email
Repeatedly on the last few trips to the States its not been enough to put 'JW Marriot, Miami, FL' or similar, nope they want the street address and knowing its 'on Brickell' isn't enough.  So on each occasion I've done the same thing, pulled out my mobile and been met with...
You can't use that here, it needs to be turned off
What about the iPad I enquire?  Nope that is banned as well.  So here we are at an impasse, its 2011 and 2012 and thanks to the wonder of technology that has existed for the whole 21st Century (and a bit before) I have access to my reservation details on a mobile device without having to print them off. Amazing eh?  But to the CBP this is a clear and present threat to the United States.

I've been asked, when coming in with my family, to show a paper copy of the hotel booking to 'prove' we have a reservation... seriously?  In the modern era of printers and word processors its considered a security check to have an EMAIL reservation printed out... rather than actually showing the email?

I saw a guy at the final 'hand in the blue customers paper' check told the same thing on a phone that was just held in his hand, not being used mind, just held.  The international arrival area is clearly not somewhere that phoning for a taxi or telling people you've arrived is a massive security risk.

Yes this is a rant, but seriously its 2012 and most people are shifting away from paper onto mobile devices, the CBP should be encouraging this rather than dissuading it.  How about this, how about having a CBP approved application which you load all these details onto, this then generates a QR Code or similar, this gets scanned at the immigration piece and they get not only the hotel but also the details on your return flight, go a stage further and have the questionnaire on the application and suddenly you've got all the information you need with no OCR processes and no lost data (and reduced risk of ID fraud/theft).

Come on CBP, its 2012, get with the program and face the reality of a mobile world.  Let people have mobile phones (you can even say 'no calls at the desk' like they do in the UK) and maybe even save some time and money, and identifying risk better, by automating the paper process.


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