Air travel

Trying out U.S. customs ‘quick pass’

 

The Orange County Register

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting “How Global Entry Saved My Travel Day, Though Not Right Away and Not All the Time,” a Trusted Traveler saga of trials and triumphs of surviving airport security screenings, told in three parts.

TAKE ONE

The scene: John Wayne Airport, midmorning on a Saturday.

The scenario: Southwest flight from Orange County, Calif., to Denver.

I clutch my boarding pass in one hand and my coveted Global Entry Card in the other. After seven months, $100, a federal background check and having my fingerprints and retina scanned, I had finally received my Global Entry Card. The card has an intentionally distorted face shot that makes me look like Moe Howard from the Three Stooges if half his face swelled up from a spider bite.

This is a domestic flight, but one of the perks of having the Global Entry Card is you automatically can go to Pre-Check, the security entrance that lets select passengers skip the long lines, the dressing and undressing, the fumbling with laptops and shoving liquids into a little Ziploc bag.

My wife and children were traveling with me. I had briefed them: In the name of investigative journalism and serving you, the reader, I would leave them behind to endure the cattle call of the normal security lines while I scooted through and killed some time at the newsstand. I found an airport guide and asked which lane was for Pre-Check.

“There’s no Pre-Check in Terminal C,” she said. If I wanted to use Pre-Check, I would have to go to Terminal A, at the opposite end of the airport.

I joined my family in the regular line and started taking off my belt.

TAKE TWO

The scene: Denver International Airport, a Sunday afternoon.

The scenario: Icelandair flight from Denver to Reykjavik, Iceland.

Denver is the airport big leagues. It has Pre-Check all over the place. I stepped up to the security agent and handed him my card. He tapped away for a second on his keyboard, then in a monotone announced, “You’ve been randomly chosen to go through enhanced security. Please join the line.”

I knew one of the safeguards of Pre-Check and Global Entry was that you would be randomly asked to go through regular security. It makes sure no one goes rogue after being named a “trusted traveler.”

But the first time? Come on!

By the time it was my turn in the conga line of bags, purses, laptops, carry-on rolling bags, I found my bored family sitting on a bench inside the terminal.

TAKE THREE

The scene: Los Angeles International Airport, international arrivals, Terminal 2. A very late Wednesday night.

The scenario: Tired and disheveled from 11-hour, nonstop Air New Zealand flight from London.

I’m lugging my laptop, photo bag and a rolling bag full of books, magazines and newspapers I had accumulated on the trip but not yet read. My exhausted family lopes along with me.

We get to the immigration hall and there are thousands of people. Jumbo jets from Mexico, the Middle East and London had showed up at roughly the same time. My 19-year-old son heaves a big sigh.

I told my family I was going to give it another try. They went right toward the “U.S. Citizens” line, while I headed to the far left edge of the hall and saw two Global Entry kiosks, looking like fancy ATM machines, against a wall.

As instructed, I slid my passport under a scanner, pressed my right hand onto another small scanner that read my fingerprints, while an eye scanner checked out my retina. I answered some customs questions on a touch screen (the ones everybody else has to fill out on paper). Out spit a slip saying I was in.

That was it.

An agent confirmed I had the slip and directed me down a narrow aisle, past the huddled masses yearning to breathe the smog at LAX.

My elapsed time from entering the hall to baggage claim: Five minutes.

Additional time until my family made its way through security: 40 minutes.

Global Entry could save the travel day for me — this time.

One important note, though.

There’s no global entry for bags. It was another 35 minutes before my two bags plummeted down the chute and onto the shiny stainless steel carousel.

I am a “trusted traveler,” but the government still isn’t so sure about my dirty laundry.

Read more Travel stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
The number of smartphone and tablet apps that allow a user to search for and bid on the lowest prices for upscale hotel rooms has dramatically increased in recent years. Using them, along with third-party booking sites like Kayak.com and the hotel's own app or website, can net travelers some surprising savings. (Cristina Sampaio/The New York Times) -- ILLUSTRATION MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE, ONLINE OR IN PRINT, BEFORE AUG. 10, 2014. -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH STORY SLUGGED HOTEL APPS ADV10 BY STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. --

    Travelwise

    Battle of the apps: last-minute deals on upscale hotels

    If last-minute hotel booking apps make you think of impetuous travelers on a budget, think again. The market for such apps and websites is becoming increasingly crowded, making it easier for those looking for upscale hotels to find eleventh-hour discounts.

  •  
The 9/11 Tribute Center, on Liberty Street in Lower Manhattan, offers an intimate look at the events of Sept. 11th, 2001, and also offers walking tours.

    New York

    9/11 Memorial, museum, draw strong interest

    Out-of-towners and locals alike have shown enormous interest in sites connected to the Sept. 11th attacks. More than 700,000 people from all 50 states and 131 countries have been to the National Sept. 11 Museum since it opened May 21. More have come from New York than any other state, but the museum also hosts so many international tourists that you can’t even identify all the languages being spoken.

  •  
Georgian wine and giant, comfy couches are standouts at Josper Organique in Tbilisi.

    Bar scene: Tbilisi, Georgia

    A night out in a lively and charming city

    The town’s tagline is “Tbilisi Loves You.” These words are scrawled in a festive font at the airport, on the sides of taxis and in graffiti on buildings. The slogan rings true, because I’ve never met a more welcoming city than the quirky capital of Georgia — the country, not the state.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK



  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category