Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Highs and Lows of the Fast Track Though Arrival Halls at U.S. Airports

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Highs and Lows of the Fast Track Though Arrival Halls at U.S. Airports

Article excerpt

The program, which lets pre-screened U.S. passport holders bypass immigration lines, is popular, despite technical issues -- like balky fingerprint scans for some people.

Is the popular Global Entry program working as advertised? That is the program that gives members who have been prescreened quick re- entry into the United States at major international airports.

Absolutely yes, says U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that operates Global Entry. The program generates "overwhelmingly positive comments," John Wagner, the acting deputy assistant commissioner for field operations, told me. The gist of many comments, he said, is: "Holy cow! The government did something right."

I hear the same from many travelers who are delighted to speed through Customs at automated kiosks and avoid the sometimes seemingly interminable international arrival lines.

"Traveling in from Tokyo last Monday, it took less than one minute" to clear Customs at Los Angeles International Airport, said Rob Newman, a television commercial producer who travels abroad frequently. "I was out of Immigration and Customs and at my office in Marina del Rey while some people were still waiting in the lines."

Another reader, Eric Evans, said, "No lines, and in less than two minutes I'm through Immigration." And Greeley Koch, the executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, wrote, "The longest I ever waited in line was 30 seconds."

As I noted in a previous column, applications for Global Entry (www.globalentry.gov), which charges a $100 processing fee, have more than doubled since early January, to about 50,000 a month. About 1.5 million people have been approved to use the airport re- entry kiosks.

But there have been issues, as the technology people say. Readers have continued to tell me about problems with fingerprint scanners. Prints are recorded at enrollment centers, where an applicant who passes the background check reports for an interview in the final step of the approval process. When passengers use the airport kiosks to re-enter the country, their fingerprints and passports are scanned.

"It took the agent multiple times to scan my prints" during enrollment at a center at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, reported Richard J. Harrison.

Eliana Sachar said, "I had the same difficulty at enrollment and also when I came back into the country" at Miami International Airport."The Customs person told me that I probably did too many dishes and then put on hand cream."

Ms. Sachar, incidentally, had an experience similar to one I reported in a recent column. After dozens of failed attempts to capture my prints at an enrollment center in Nogales, Arizona -- I spend a lot of time outdoors in the Arizona desert and assumed my skin was simply too dry -- the officer first suggested that I wipe my fingertips on my forehead and neck. …

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