Speed up your air travel

If you frequently travel by air, including international travel, then you may benefit from new services that get you pre-vetted for the purpose of speeding up security checks and customs. They may not take away all airport stress, but for someone who is travelling enough, these services will make a noticeable difference.

First off there is TSA’s Pre✓ program.  The United States Department of Homeland Security has tasked the Transportation Security Administration with responsibility for stopping any future terrorist activity in America’s airports. By now we are all familiar with the enhanced screening that is necessary in this post-9/11 world. Travelers must now remove shoes and belts, and separate laptops from the remainder of their luggage. Worse yet is the wait that routinely accompanies these procedures.

TSA Pre✓ is a government program whereby travelers can be pre-screened, in person, and subject to a rigorous background check, including fingerprinting. The cost is $85 for five years and entitles the “known traveller” to avoid shoe, belt and laptop removal, and, most importantly, a far shorter security line when checking in at the airport. After five years, customers must re-apply in order to make sure that they can still pass background and security checks.

For international travelers, Global Entry offers an expedited trip through Customs. Like TSA  Pre✓, Global Entry is a creature of the Department of Homeland Security. It is actually operated by Customs (instead of TSA), but works along the same lines as Pre✓. It’s all part of the trusted traveller program. Those who are enrolled in Global Entry actually get the benefits of TSA Pre✓, which is an included service.

The benefits of Global Entry are similar. When passing through Customs, Global Entry members use a special, machine-readable passport. They also use fingerprint scanning software and automated declarations. All of these innovations dramatically speed up the process of going through customs and remove members from the queue of people who need to get through customs the old way.

Importantly for Global Entry, there are reciprocal programs which allow travelers to experience similar service in different regions. The concept is to create a universal standard for establishing trust. The increase in convenience is paid for as governments get to test out new equipment that could eventually speed up travel for everyone. For a comparatively nominal fee, frequent fliers can experience the future today.