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Global Entry–Just Get It April 20, 2011

Posted by gordonwatts in travel.
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A month or two ago I was traveling back from Geneva with a friend of mine. Kaori and I were on a flight that was late – about an hour late. We landed at IAD and really had to race to make our connections (we had less than an hour). We raced to immigration and I got in line. Looking around – I couldn’t find her… looking over to the side, I saw her at some kiosk… in about a minute or so she was racing through to the baggage pick up. Me… I hung out in the line for about 5 minutes.

She was using the Global Entry program. Having signed up and used it for my most recent flight… I’m a fan. It is fairly cheap – $100 bucks for 5 years. You do have to give up finger prints and picture to the US government – as far as I know that is the first set of finger prints any government agency has on record for me – so that was a little weird. As an example, on my last flight into IAD the plane doors were opened at 4:10 pm. At 4:22 pm I was in the X-Ray line. This included more than 5 minutes of walking since our plane was waaaay down the terminal. You use a kiosk instead of a person in the immigration area. I’d say it took the same amount of time as dealing with an officer who decided not to ask any question and if there were no lines – about 90 seconds or so. Extra bonus: no filling out those @*#&@ blue custom forms (there is an abbreviated version on the kiosk). And, when you go through customs, there is a separate line that lets you cut to the front (at least, in IAD). You just hand them a bit of paper that the immigration kiosk printed out and you are done.

I could imagine there are a number of circumstances that don’t make this worth it. If you always travel with kids under 14 you can’t use this (well, the kids can’t use this), if you always check baggage the time saved will be a small fraction of your total time, and I think there are only about 20 airports that support it (these are where your international ports-of-entry). Oh, and if you like watching people while standing in lines to relax after that long flight being cooped up… then this isn’t for you either.

My flight into IAD earlier this week was over an hour late. I had less than an hour to connect. A student of mine and I were both on the plane and both were on the connecting flight to Seattle. Neither of us had bags checked. The Seattle flight was in D29 in IAD (which means a long walk). I did a brisk walk and made it before boarding started. He had to sprint some of the way and made it after everyone had already boarded – but he still made it. BTW – I was also able to skip to the front of the X-Ray line which can be killer in IAD because I’d been upgraded on that last leg. That probably saved me an additional 10 minutes or so on this trip.

So… I’d recommend getting this if you flight internationally with any frequency. It definitely made that part of my trip quicker and, thus, more enjoyable!

As a side note… WHY don’t they design the airport so that if you don’t have to pickup your luggage you don’t have to go thought security again?

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