I just flew from Atlanta to attend a conference in Minneapolis. Living in Atlanta, I am accustomed to the long security lines at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. After all, ATL is the world’s busiest airport and sometimes the security lines seem to reflect this. At least if you’re connecting in Atlanta you are already BEYOND the security lines “us locals” have to manage.
There is a way to bypass some of those security lines – well, most of the time. Experienced travels already know this secret – it’s the Trusted Traveler Program. The Trusted Traveler Programs include Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI. For me, because I travel overseas often, the Global Entry program was the best option.
The Global Entry program is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. It is intended for frequent international travelers, but there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify for this program. And the best part – when you do enter the US (at selected airports – like ATL) you don’t have to wait in line behind the 250 other people who got off your plane. Nope, you head to the automated kiosks and in under 90 seconds, you’re headed for a “Global Entry” line, It’s often the same line the air crews use. Once you pass through this line, you get to present your kiosk-printed declarations ticket in another “designated” line… bypassing everyone waiting to exit!
My wife and I recently used the Global Entry program when returning from Rome to Atlanta on Delta Airlines. We were in Economy Class and, because we bought our tickets at the last minute, we were three rows from the back of a completely-full 767 plane. Yes, the prospect of having to wait to get off the plane and then having to wait in the immigration lines was not something we relished.
As members of the Global Entry program, when we entered the Immigration area we did not join the massive lines (It appeared that at least one, maybe two other planes had also arrived). We went straight to the Global Entry kiosks and after scanning passports, validating our identity, answering a few customs declaration questions, we printed out our “entry-tickets” and headed for the “special” line. In less than 3 minutes we were OUT of the Immigration Hall and heading to the baggage carousel. We easily saved 45 minutes.
To get this “advantage,” Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and an interview before enrollment. Head to the GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) website for more information and the opportunity to apply for this program. To get Trusted Traveler status it will cost $100 to file your application. If approved, you Global Entry card would be good for five years. Thus, approximately $20 per year.
The Global Entry program is very convenient. Yet at the start of this article I was headed from Atlanta to Minneapolis. So how did being a member of the Global Entry program help me avoid the security lines at ATL on this domestic flight?
It’s perhaps a “by-product” of having a Global Entry membership. Because you have a Trusted Traveler number, you enter this number into the websites of the major airlines to which you belong. It’s somewhat difficult to find on the Delta website, but it’s there (in the international info section). Once you enter this number – or enter when you purchase a ticket – your Trusted Traveler status is attached to your ticket. As I am a frequent Delta flyer, and a SkyMiles member, my Trusted Traveler number is embedded in my profile… so all tickets I purchase through Delta.com will have my Trusted Traveler number linked.
And the Global Entry program is connected to the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). Yes, as a member of the Global Entry Program, and a Trusted Traveler… you are eligible to use the TSA Pre-Check system.
And what’s that? The TSA Pre-Check is a pre-screening initiative that makes risk assessments on passengers who voluntarily participate prior to their arrival at the airport checkpoint. And eligible participants can use dedicated TSA Pre-Check lanes at participating airports – like Atlanta!
In addition, you get these ADDITIONAL benefits when going through a TSA Pre-Check lane. You no longer need to remove your:
● 3-1-1 compliant bag from carry-on
● laptop/iPad from your bag
● Light outerwear/jacket
How will you know if you get to use these lanes and this expedited screening?
It will appear on – and is embedded in – your boarding pass. You may not know you have this benefit until 24 hours in advance or when you print out your boarding pass (or receive a text message). The TSA scans the barcode at designated checkpoints and you will receive expedited screening. And if you don’t see the TSA Pre-Check designation on your boarding pass, don’t even try to enter these lanes as they’ll just turn you away.
Now it is not guaranteed that you will ALWAYS be able to use the TSA Pre-Check lanes at these participating airports because you have a Trusted Traveler number. It’s a random selection of all travelers who have a Trusted Traveler number… but I have received this “benefit” on my last eight flights.
And it is a “benefit.” When I headed to security today at ATL, the lines in the general security area were about halfway through the public-area serpentine and packed-in at the multiple X-Ray screening units beyond the TSA check-points. That equates to perhaps a 25-35 minute wait. Below is the “line’ at the TSA Pre-Check line.
Yes, the TSA Pre-Check line was only THREE PEOPLE!
If you are a frequent air traveler – and you hate lines – then become a Trusted Traveler. Check out the GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) website for information on how to apply. Maybe I will meet you in a TSA Pre-Check line or standing at a kiosk in an Immigration Hall. Good Luck!
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