Why Next Time, We’re Flying Global Entry

We’d long heard from a select few friends and others the benefits of shelling out $100 for five years not to mention going through the laborious application process to join U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Global Entry program. For some time, we scoffed at it, thinking that regular Transportation Security Administration screening was good enough for us. After all, impatient as we can be, we don’t hire line waiters or folks to do stuff for us that we can do.

After hearing one friend in particular rave about the program and its benefits to his family, we decided to test the waters. Bolstering our perception that life in the fast TSA lane really was better, we had on random occasions been able to go through the fast lanes for no apparent reason. And it rocked.

So, some months ago, we began the application process. It was laborious, required entering information multiple times in ways that was not always intuitive, and coming up with such complicated passwords that we almost gave up before finally the online portal accepted our password proffer.

After some more weeks passed, we were able to set up an appointment at the nearest service center to us. Today at 8 a.m. was our appointment, and we were generally not disappointed with the experience. There was no wait, with several CBP agents ready to conduct our cursory interview, fingerprint us and issue us our coveted known-traveler number. We did have to submit our fingers on each hand twice for fingerprinting because we didn’t press firmly enough on the scanner, but that was no inconvenience. And it turned out we didn’t need our latest utility bill, as we thought the online portal had advised. That was one of the confusing bits of information on the portal. We hope CBP makes some improvements to it that will be evident on the front end.

We experienced some confusion before we arrived at the CBP facility in the Reagan Building in downtown Washington this morning. CBP/TSA did not provide us with much inkling of where in the huge building we should go, and some of the security personnel inside the building itself didn’t seem to know, either. But even with some wrong turns, and some friendly help, we arrived exactly on time for our appointment.

Once we got back to our desk, we eagerly called the first airline we next have tickets on to give them our known-traveler number. To go through the fast lanes, one’s airline must have this information in advance. With American Airlines, it took less than 10 minutes.

But we soon discovered the limits of the program. Frontier, another airline on which we have tickets, it turns out does not appear on its website and that of the TSA to participate in the program. We emailed Frontier to double check, but it seems we’re out of luck on this airline. Hopefully, they’ll add Global Entry in the future.

But on other airlines for the next five years, we’re looking forward to an easy check-in process. And good news for those only wanting to travel domestically without security hassle: Kids under 12 can accompany you without them going through the application process. Wheels up!

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