With security lines at airports getting longer, and no relief in sight, enrolling in things like TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry seem more and more tempting. We have weighed our options and are filling you in on what you need to know.
Several months ago, we were weighing the options between TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry and decided that Global Entry was the way to go. For only $15 more per person, you got the benefits of TSA Pre-Check, plus all the other perks that the Global Entry program offers. We fly in and out of the US a handful of times each year, so we’re no stranger to the horrible TSA security lines as well as long customs/immigration lines at major airports.
In January 2016, we submitted our Global Entry program applications, paid our $100/per person fees, and waited to hear back on our approvals. As soon as we heard back, we started looking for centers so we could set up our in-person screening appointments. You’d think this would be an easy process, but it hasn’t been. One of the reasons it hasn’t been easy is because there are no Global Entry screening locations anywhere in our state of residence. But, we are in major airports several times throughout the year… surely we could find an available appointment somewhere!! The other reason this has been difficult is due to a lack of available appointments. While I’m sure this has to do with the increased popularity of the program and decreased staffing, I can say for sure it hasn’t been for a lack of trying on our parts! Based on our planned travels so far this year, we have tried scheduling appointments at the following airports (sometimes multiple times) to no avail:
- Denver International Airport
- Salt Lake City International Airport
- Washington-Dulles International Airport
- Reagan International Airport
- McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
- Baltimore International Airport
- Sky Harbor International Airport (Phoenix)
- Portland International Airport
- SeaTac International Airport
- Washington Enrollment Center
- Miami International Airport
- Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport
You would think that passing through these major airports, we would be able to get a 15 minute appointment! Also, in our attempts to find a screening center, I called the CBP Global Entry Headquarters in Washington, D.C. seeking assistance in scheduling our appointment. I sat on hold for over 45 minutes only to be told that because I can’t find any available appointments that work with my flight schedules, to just pick a random screening appointment and cancel it later so we won’t be out our $200 application fees. Well, here we sit, nearly half of a year later with no available appointments in sight for any of our scheduled travels through September 2016 and $200 less in our pockets. I contacted Customs and Border Patrol again and was told to try walking in to a screening center. After that piece of advice, I called a few screening centers to see if they would accept walk-in appointments and was treated very rudely over the phone. I’ve even looked for appointments which may work with our tentative travel plans as far out as January 2017 with no luck thanks to black-outs on available appointments.
I’m sure Global Entry is great for people who live near major airports who can easily swing by at the drop of a hat. For those of us who don’t have that ability, Global Entry simply doesn’t seem to be worth it. If you are thinking of Global Entry and don’t live in close proximity to a screening center (generally major airports), TSA Pre-Check might be the better time-saving option for you.
***Update*** As of November 2016, we still have not been able to find a screening center with available appointments that coincide with our travels. Our next option is to drive to one of two nearby states that offer the GOES screening appointments for completion. However, the soonest we can do this is June 2017 because there are no available appointments until that time.