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Can Global Entry Take the Pain out of the Sequester?

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The DOT has warned that the sequester will result in delays of up to 90 minutes. In fact, Homeland Security has already seen that major airports, like LAX and O’Hare, are seeing delays in customs because of reduced staffing. Can a traveler to do anything to avoid the delays? There just might be a way. Travel Weekly’s Arnie Weissmann joins Peter with an interesting solution for the frequent flier.

Peter Greenberg: We’ve already seen instances of long waits at Customs and Border Patrol facilities and at TSA counters. This has started to get a lot of people angry.

Arnie Weissmann: I noticed it last week. I was in Austin, Texas, and they have the short line for the premium passengers and then the long line for everybody else. They had one poor TSA agent who was trying to handle both lines and every time someone got into the premium line, she had to take them.

PG: So there were benefits of being in the premium line. That’s what you’re telling me?

AW: Yes. It was interesting, because the long line kept getting longer as the premium people kept going up. I can’t say for a fact, this was a result of sequestration. But, I’ve never seen anything like that before.

PG: It’s a form of triage, if you will. The TSA says you’ve got LaGuardia, Kennedy, Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, and Miami. All right. Those are the airports we don’t want to mess with, because they’re the big choke-point airports. But Austin, Texas? Madison, Wisconsin? Cleveland? Cincinnati? Watch out.

AW: Travel is going to be the face of sequestration for the American public. And when you start hitting the really busy, busy parts of the summer, it’s just going to be nightmarish. And they are predicting three, even four-hour waits in some of the airports you just mentioned. LAX keeps getting mentioned for some reason.

I do have to say there is a way around the sequestration nightmare. It involves Global Entry.

PG: I’m not a big fan of a lot of the government programs that may well-intentioned. But this one, actually works like a charm.

You fill out a form—it’s a rather long application form in my case because you have to list every single country you’ve been too and approximate dates and everything like that—then you have to go for an interview at the airport. But then once you pass that, then coming back to the United States is dreamlike because you get off the planeyou see everybody else in a line to Brazil. You go to this little kiosk. It asks you to put your password in. You put your hand down there. It analyzes your four fingerprints. It takes a picture of you. Gives you a receipt. You’re done!

AW: The biggest hassle is that you get to the luggage carousel before your luggage. And, it is free if you happen to be at certain status with the airlines or credit card companies like American Express Platinum.

Global Entry is one of the best government programs I’ve ever seen. Plus it has you automatically enrolled in the pre-check program. With the Pre-Check program, you don’t get quite the same guarantees.

PG: In theory, if you’re a member of Pre-Check program, they take you to a different line where you don’t have to take your jacket off, you don’t have to remove your shoes, you don’t have to take your laptop out or the liquids outand off you go, which is fine, except there’s a little asterisk in this program saying either a) not available at all airports, or worse, b) it’s random!

Find out all the Airports where TSA Pre-Check is available.

So every time I go through for the last three weeks, I wasn’t allowed to go through that line, even though I am a member of Global Entry. So what’s the point?

They should call the program. Just “Not Today!” The bottom line is: Global Entry, I endorse that 100 per cent. Pre-Check, jury’s out. In fact, it may be sleeping.

AW: It’s not TSA that’s doing the randomness, it’s the airlines. Each airline sets its own criteria.

For more information on the sequester, check out:

By Peter Greenberg for Peter Greenberg Worldwide