While traveling is a huge part of my job, I’d often prefer to skip past the “getting there” and “getting back” parts, especially when they involve an airport. All the time spent waiting in lines can’t be fun for anyone, either to check bags, go through security, board the plane, or clear immigration and customs. That’s why I use a few tools to get me through the lines quickly.
Stick with me and leave a comment at the end of this post for a chance to win a free year’s membership in the Clear program.
The Global Entry program allows expedited clearance for travelers returning to the United States from another country. Run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the program allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to use a kiosk to check in at immigration stations, skipping the huge lines. Of course, if you’ve checked a bag, you still have to wait for it before going through customs, but skipping the immigration line definitely cuts down on the irritation factor.
To apply, fill out an online application, and then schedule an interview at an enrollment center, located in 23 domestic airports and two U.S. Customs offices. There, you’ll answer questions based on your application, and have fingerprints scanned. If approved, your card comes in the mail only a few days later. The cost is $100 for five years. If you have an American Express Platinum Card and use it to apply for Global Entry, American Express will waive the fee.
I’ve used the Global Entry program since January, and even if American Express hadn’t reimbursed me for the expense, I’d say the cost is well worth it.
You may remember the Clear program from 2009, when the old Clear program closed without notice, stranding up to 200,000 members. The new program was re-launched after being purchased in bankruptcy, and is currently operating in Denver, Orlando and San Francisco airports. It’s soon to start in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and continue rolling out to 25 domestic airports.
Clear allows you to skip any TSA line that checks your documents (usually your passport or driver’s license and airplane ticket), by scanning your Clear card and airplane ticket at a kiosk. Then, you move to the front of the baggage screening line to finish the security process. I recently used my card to bypass more than 100 people in San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and even though I opted out of the body scanning and had a pat-down, the entire process took no more than five minutes.
To apply, register online, then verify your information at an airport Clear station, where your fingerprints and iris scan will also be taken. The card comes in the mail just days after that. The cost is $179 for a year. Assuming you use an airport where the program has launched, fly a fair amount of times per year, and place a value on your time, it’s more than worth it.
Do you want to try the Clear program out for free? Use this code (CMNB04) for three months of free Clear service. Use it quickly, however. The code expires on July 31, 2012.
Leave a comment below about what you’d do with all the airport waiting time you’d be saving if you had a Clear card. I’ll choose a winner at random on July 1, and that person will get a code for a free year of Clear.
I received a Clear card for evaluation purposes, as well as one to give away to readers. My review of the Clear program reflects my own opinion.