On a recent blog post, I mentioned Global Entry and I received a question from a reader asking about the program. This is a great question.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a program managed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which allows you to bypass the traditional Customs and Border Patrol queues and use kiosks when returning to the U.S. from foreign travel. Instead of completing that skinny blue form you answer the same questions on a self-serve terminal upon arrival. It’s just like using the self check-in kiosks when you arrive at the airport.
Who is eligible?
When the program started only U.S. citizens were eligible, but that has since changed. U.S., Dutch, South Korean and Mexican citizens, as well as lawful permanent U.S. residents are eligible to apply. Canadians can obtain the same benefits through their NEXUS program. Just because you are eligible of course doesn’t mean you’ll actually be approved to this program.
The application process starts online (follow this link to be directed to the official application page). You’ll be required to complete several pages of personal information (name, address, etc) as well as other non-traditional questions – including listing the countries you’ve visited previously. This last part can be difficult for some of us – you need to list the countries and the dates of your visits. There is a $100 non-refundable application fee – but some credit cards (AmEx Platinum) and some Airlines (for top tier frequent flyers – United’s 1K) will reimburse you this fee.
Your application will then be reviewed and I’ve heard this application process taking just a couple of days to several weeks, depending on the number of other applications in the queue. My application took less than a week – I applied in January of 2013. Once approved you’ll be allowed to set up a personal interview at a Customs and Border Patrol Office. Most of these are located in airports, although there are more and more City offices. I visited a City location. One thing to note though – you don’t have to schedule your interview at your local office. If you are transiting another airport, you can schedule an interview there. Be sure to plan ahead though – these offices can be land side and often times found in an international terminal – so if you are on a domestic connection you will need a lot of time to get to the office, go through the interview and get back through security and to your connecting gate.
What does the interview consist of? It’s pretty straight forward. My guy asked me about my past and my future travel plans. I was 100% honest with these guys – and recommend you be the same. A friend told me a tale of his interview where a fellow applicant was caught in a lie. The CBP Officer asked the other applicant if he had ever been arrested and the applicant said “No” to which the CBP Officer said “Are you sure? Not even for driving while under the influence in 1994 in Springfield”. I don’t know if this guy was accepted or not. I wonder if he just FORGOT he was arrested or if he thought it was so long ago it didn’t matter. My suggestion – be completely honest though the entire process.
The final step is for the CBP Officer to snap your picture, register your passport and show you how to use the actual system. All in all, I was in the CBP office less than 30 minutes.
Is Global Entry Worth It?
This question is very personal. For me, it absolutely is. I travel internationally 4-5 times a year and often I arrive at ORD during the afternoon rush period where the lines can be long – the longest I’ve ever waited at ORD for CBP was 1h15. With Global Entry, I’ve been able to get from the plane to a taxi in less than 15 minutes – so it is totally worth it for me. I say if you have a credit card or a frequent travel program that reimburses you the fee, go for it.
Do you have Global Entry? How long did the total process take you (from application to being an active user)? Did you pay the fee or did a credit card or an airline pay on your behalf?
Our trip to Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand took a long time to come to fruition — we were delayed a year because of my broken arm. Thanks to this delay we were able to try out a brand new plane and experience really top notch service. I really enjoy our now habit of taking 1-2 week vacations in March – it helps me survive the long Chicago winters and this trip fit that bill perfectly.
This trip allowed me to fly in premium cabins on airlines I had never flown before, put me way outside of my comfort zone with language and food and afforded me the ability to see a part of the world (with good friends) that only one other member of my family had seen before – and he (my dad) wasn’t in the area for pleasure (he served in the US Army from 1970-1971 in Vietnam). That being said, my 5 favorite parts of this trip would have to be:
- Flying Thai’s A380 in First Class
- Enjoying copious amounts of Mango Juice, Sugar Cane Juice and Foot Massages
- Exploring the amazing temples of Angkor Wat and the surrounding area
- Riding on the back of a motor bike in Saigon for hours as we hit various restaurants
- Morning Tai Chi as we cruise Halong Bay
I had a great time. It was sad to see this trip come to an end. Was it perfect? No. We were hot, we were sweaty, we got a bit on each others nerves from time to time. We each had stomach issues briefly. While I can’t speak for the rest of the small group, I can tell you’d I’d get back on a plane tomorrow and revisit this area – I would definitely make some changes to the itinerary, but Vietnam, Cambodia nor Thailand have moved to my “Been-There-Done-That” list of travel locations.
What was your favorite part as you read about my trip? Anything you’d like to know more about? If you’ve been to this area of the world, what was your favorite / least favorite thing you did?
The Asiana Business Class Lounge wasn’t anything special – it’s a whole hell of a lot better than the Star Alliance lounges in Frankfort that’s for sure. The food in the lounge was limited and the wait for the showers was surprisingly long (we waited nearly 90 minutes for the showers to open up) – although it was “rush hour” at Incheon. We headed over to the gate around 10h15 as I wanted to get settled and get a glass of champagne while everyone else got settled in.
Carrier: Asiana Airlines
Flight: OZ 236
Departure: March 30, 2013 – 11h00 / 11h00
Arrival: March 31, 2013 – 09h40 / 09h10
Travel Time: 12 hour 35 minutes / 12 hours and 5 minutes
Flight Miles: 6,538
This Asiana 777-200 was equipped with their newer Business Class Seat – which has the unfortunate name of “Quadra Smartium” – no idea how they came up with that name. I did really dig the seats. The cabin was in a 2-2-2 configuration in 5 rows with the 6th row having only the two center seats (the cabin has 22 total seats). We took the center section in row 4, so we’d both have easy access to the aisle. The business class cabin was about 75% full and we consistently had 3 flight attendants working our cabin – we’d see others come up from coach from time to time and ours would head to the back and help out as well. While there was an odd movement between the cabins, service wasn’t lacking at all.
As I was getting settled into my seat, a very prim and proper stew took order for a pre-departure glass of champagne. Asiana was serving the 2004 De Venoge Champagne Blanc de Blancs. This wine was perfectly fine – I liked the 2003 Dom on Thai better, but this selection was substantially better than we received on the other flights (including Lufthansa Business). Menus were then distributed and before the doors closed and we pushed back, I had finished two glasses of this wine.
I don’t have a lot of experience eating Korean food, but I was really looking forward to Asiana’s Bibimbap – but unfortunately it wasn’t even an option on this flight, which was quite disappointing to me. I chose the Western Lunch and continued to pair the various courses with the champagne.
While the lunch wasn’t at all what I was expecting (and to this day I still haven’t had a traditional Korean Bibimbap) it was actually quite good. I usually don’t have good luck with red meat on planes — over cooked and under flavored beef isn’t high on my list — but Asiana did a really nice job on the meal preparation.
The service was pretty well executed as well. Before the safety video, all the stews did a welcome bow in perfect unison. They all looked almost exactly the same (height, weight, hairstyle, etc) and each one (that I interacted with) performed her job exactly as her colleagues did. Yes, I said she — I didn’t see a single male flight attendant on this plane.
How was the hard product, you ask? The seat was comfortable and the IFE had enough movies/TV shows to keep me entertained. I mostly just watched old James Bond films and slept, when I wasn’t eating. Speaking of sleeping, these seats are billed as angle flat seats, which I don’t get. The seats are fully flat. I slept quite a bit on this flight — even at home in bed I wake up 2 – 3 times over an 8 hour period. On board I slept a total of 6.5 hours and I woke up 2-3 times . The seat, when turned into a bed, was definitely a narrow seat, although I didn’t feel claustrophobic, it was just tight when trying to roll over, etc.
I woke up for the final time shortly before breakfast and asked for a glass of champagne (shocker, I know) and was informed they were completely out. Such a catastrophe for me. I survived.
We arrived a bit earlier than scheduled and were some of the first off the plane – as everyone exited through door 1L. When we hit Customs and Border Patrol we were the only ones there. MS headed through the traditional immigration line and I headed over to the Global Entry Kiosk. I had received my Global Entry clearance just a few days before our trip. MS beat me to baggage claim for two reasons: 1) He was the only one in line at that point and 2) I hadn’t used the kiosk before so I actually had t read the questions.
In a matter of minutes our luggage was coming out and we were on our way to a cab on this Easter morning.
Have you flown Asiana’s Quadra Smatium Business Class before? What did you think of the seats? Did you run out of champagne on your flight? Have you tried Asiana’s or Korean Air’s bibimbap?