International Travelers Like Global Entry VIP Speed Lane

international travelers

International travelers arriving in the United States this summer are often faced with a waiting time of three hours or longer to clear U.S. Customs. If their first stop in the U.S. is not their final destination, that wait can easily add up to missed connections too. In March, with several international flights on my upcoming travel schedule, I took a look at what could be done to speed things up.

“It’s a major problem,” said Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president at Airlines for America in a Wall Street Journal report. “People get very, very frustrated when they spend seven or nine or even as long as 17 hours on a flight and then wait another two to three hours in line. People get really unhappy.”

I saw that unhappiness first hand at Orlando International Airport (MCO), my hometown airport and one that sees a bunch of families as the gateway to a number of central Florida theme parks and attractions. It has always been good to be an American at Orlando customs where the line for U.S. citizens is a fraction of what those from other countries face. Still, with recent government cutbacks, lines and waiting time for all had increased.Looking into the Trusted Traveler program, I liked the idea of speeding through the process of entering the United States. I rarely have anything to declare and travel enough internationally to make the $100 fee, good for five years, worth it. After completing an online application, U.S. Customs and Border Protection performed a background check, conditionally approved the application and then allowed scheduling of a one-on-one interview with a customs agent at a choice of local locations. That interview took no more than five minutes and off I went with my Global Entry ID card, something I would never need again.

Arriving in the United States, program members go directly to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport, scan fingertips for verification then make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues a transaction receipt, which is very much like a second fast pass, used to access a second fast line after baggage has been claimed and others are being checked again.

Entering the U.S. in Atlanta (ATL) on a flight from London, the process could not have been smoother. I walked from the plane to my connection with just a brief stop at the Global Entry kiosk, the luggage claim area and on through customs.

A bonus to Global Entry is that it also admits participants to the TSA Pre✓™ program, normally reserved for frequent fliers of certain airlines. In the dedicated TSA Pre✓™ lanes at participating airports screening might not require removing shoes, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, belts or taking off a jacket.

The down side? If traveling with others who are not part of the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ program, I still have to wait for them but can do so at a comfortable airport lounge.

Chicago O’Hare and Boston Logan first airports to get full body scanners

Hide the women and children, those full body scanners that have been causing all of the ruckus in the EU and Canada are on their way to the United States. Starting in early March, the technology that some claim gives a “voyeuristic” view of air travelers to the TSA will be installed in two of the nation’s busiest airports: Chicago’s O’Hare and Boston’s Logan.

Throughout the rest of the summer 150 more scanners will appear around the country.

Why the consternation? Critics claim that the new scanners violate privacy, while some even worry that the TSA can see specific body parts.

For their part, the Department of Homeland Security wants to use the tools for enhanced security screening; such technology, for example, could have potentially caught last year’s underwear bomber. Regardless, it looks like the scanners are here to stay, so be prepared to go through one at some point in your travels.

TSA Wants to Screen Passengers of Private Jets

The TSA wants to expand its reach to include the 15,000 private and corporate jets and 300+ small airports that are currently outside its jurisdiction. The security agency claims that many of the jets are the same size as small commercial planes and could be used to commit acts of terrorism. They want all private jet passengers and crews to pass a background check before boarding their planes. Private plane owners, pilots and corporate fliers are crying foul. Most call the proposed plan an invasion of privacy and a waste of money.

But whose money would it be wasting? According to the TSA, 85% of the $200 million per year it would take to fund the screening will come from fees charged to the jets’ owners and operators. The proposal does not include physical screening. Passengers and crews would have to provide ID and give their name and birth date. The TSA will most likely subcontract out the work to security firms that specialize in background checks. The proposal, which is more than 200 pages long, states that frequent fliers will only have to pass the background check once.