Frequent business travelers love it, repeat leisure vacationers are signing up and even kids are getting into the act.
It’s all about time saved, according to John Wagner, acting deputy assistant commissioner for field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
While other travelers wait in lines to pass through customs and immigration — often long lines, depending upon the airport and the time of day — it’s possible for Global Entry members to zip through “in under a minute or less,” Wagner said.
There have been problems reported with the fingerprint scanners at some of the 283 Global Entry kiosks at 40 airports, but that’s usually a hardware issue in the scanner or a dirty screen.
“It’s not a huge problem,” Wagner said. “We monitor the kiosks all the time. If the fingerprints don’t read, the receipt prints out with an ‘X’ and the traveler takes it to the nearest officer. He does not have to go stand in the long line.”
As summer heats up, those lines are expected to grow. The wait at Miami's airport one afternoon recently was more than three hours, according to one haggard traveler who missed his connection, along with many other travelers.
Wagner, himself a Global Entry member, often talks with fellow members as they head to a kiosk.
“They love the program,” he said. “They tell me they are saving hours and hours and are out of the terminal and headed home or to an appointment within minutes. If they have to collect baggage, that can take time, but that’s not our area.”
The program, launched in 2008, now numbers 1.5 million members and is still growing.
“We track regular wait times at all the major airports, which is how we decide where to install more kiosks or open additional appointment times for the interview process,” Wagner said, naming New York Kennedy, Washington Dulles, Miami and Orlando as the program’s busiest locations.
The Global Entry application process is straightforward, although Wagner said there has been some confusion about the relationship between Global Entry and the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) PreCheck trusted-traveler initiative.
Participating airlines nominate PreCheck members from among their highest-
volume customers, but Global Entry members also qualify for PreCheck, which offers expedited screening at dedicated lanes; travelers do not have to remove shoes, light outerwear or belts and can leave their laptops and compliant liquids in carry-on bags.
The TSA recently expanded PreCheck so that participants receive expedited screening on select international travel itineraries as well as on domestic flights.
PreCheck is offered at 40 U.S. airports.
Global Entry, the program that enables expedited clearance for low-risk, pre-approved travelers arriving in the U.S., appears to be a government success story.