Global Entry is one of the best government programs ever! I signed up as soon as it became available and it has saved me a ton of time over the years. However, the big part that makes it so great is the speed and efficiency that travelers can count on when they are reentering the US. My last time using it was very different from that goal!
The Longest Line I Have Seen at Global Entry
The Global Entry Process Entering the US
Global Entry is simply – upon landing in the US, you follow the signs for Global Entry, insert your passport into the machine, smile, answer the questions, do your fingerprint scans and leave with your slip. It literally takes less than a minute to do this.
There are a lot of machines but when it gets really busy, I have had to wait a minute or two for someone in front of me to finish. There are also the machine outages where CBP will have a couple of machines with Out of Order displayed on them.
But that was not where I experienced a line. Instead, it was where you go after your quick minute at the machine. Before you get to head to the baggage carousels and the customs exit, you need to show your printout with the beautiful photo of you to a CBP officer. If your paper printed with an “X”, the officer needs to have you go see another officer.
Normally, it is just a show-and-go with this officer. They take the paper and you are on your way.
The Long Line…
Not this time! There were over 40 people in line for this one officer! (maybe some of you have experienced longer lines as of late and I have just been lucky? Let me know in the comments!) That is just ridiculous! As it turned out, my flight had been very delayed and I had to really race to get to my next flight so the kind people in line let me keep cutting until I got to the front of the line. Even then, it was a minute or so before I was called up as the next person.
At the very minimum, the people behind me would likely have had to wait about 15 minutes with the pace the line was moving. At worst, they could have waited much longer. I have no idea why the delay was at this point and I had never experienced anything like this with Global Entry before.
Edit: Sorry, I somehow forgot to initially mention that this was at JFK, Terminal 4. Apologies for leaving that out!
Is This a Sign of Things to Come?
I know, it is impossible to jump to the conclusion that Global Entry is going to be facing ridiculous waiting lines because of this one incident! But, it was bad enough that I started wondering if the program has grown too fast.
Look at TSA Precheck. There are times that it can actually be faster to use the premium/elite line than to use TSA Pre. With Global Entry members having TSA Precheck automatically, I think it is far to say that there are a lot of Global Entry members also. 🙂
Credit card issuers have contributed to a potential problem with Global Entry lines as well. With at least 17 credit cards offering Global Entry reimbursement, it is easier (and cheaper) than ever for travelers to get Global Entry. In fact, it is so popular that some of the interview locations do not have a slot for months at a time!
“Just Use More Officers!”
That can be easy to say but if you look at the clearance areas of some US airports, there is not really a whole lot of room available! In fact, in many airports, Global Entry kiosks are kind of just put in the corner of the area and in places that were likely used for storage of the people barriers before.
Part of it may be that CBP does not anticipate the demand at certain times. With the regular passport control lines, they know the number of people that are about to enter the country. But, maybe they need to start planning out more for the Global Entry lines when those flights starting getting busy as well.
I love Global Entry and will continue to be thankful for how fast it (normally) lets me get through the process of reentering the US. But, if it starts getting too busy, it is going to be tough for one of the things I value the most about the program. That is the ability to book flights with closer connections than I ever would if I did not have Global Entry. If long lines become a thing, there will be no way of knowing ahead of time if it will take me the usual 2 minutes to get through this area or 40 minutes. That is the difference of a flight right there.
Have you found long lines at Global Entry? If so, which airports?
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