Thoughts on Global Entry

I flew into Seattle today and tried out my Global Entry status for the first time. This was always going to be better than the alternative (queue for a very long time until a grumpy man who is perpetually surprised by foreigners demands to see your papers) but I was curious to see how slick it was, versus the UK or Singapore. Initial conclusion… not so much. But if I’d known how I was making it inefficient for myself, I’d have enjoyed it more, so here are notes for my future self.

My view is probably jaundiced by a few different factors. First, the machine didn’t want to recognise my passport, and before I knew it, I was being made to specify my Belgian travel docs. So the UI needs a bit of work.

Then the machine decided it could recognise my passport, but not my fingertips. (Too much climbing recently abrading my personal identification information?)

While I was faffing about with this, it took a photo of me and told me I had to present this for checking. That’s more efficient than having to fill in lots of forms, except it didn’t give me much of a chance to look at the photo, so all it captured was my ear and some of my jawline. OK, it’s a perfectly good ear, in my limited opinion, but I was worried what a human looking at this would think.

If you go via Global Entry, there’s no need to fill in a blue customs form (that was the one that got me in an argument at Miami once, about whether 0 is a number or not – only a few intransigent philosophers and an angry man in MIA deny that) which is good, but not knowing this, and not having the blue form I got worried, at which point some Delta staff sent me on a long walk to find an official who muttered at me, disgusted that I haven’t learned every detail of the paperwork his bureaucracy requires. But that’s par for the course, and nobody shouted at me, so I was feeling pretty happy.

Anyway, Global Entry does speed up your passage into the country, but if the carousel breaks down and your luggage takes half an hour to arrive, maybe that’s irrelevant.

I got to the customs line, and in another example of apparent confusion and surprise, the customs officer looked at my passport and asked how did I get Global Entry.

I got Global Entry because I’m British, I told her, because that accident of birth does give you access to the program. Then she asked me why, and I said because I wanted to save time going through security, which again is quite true, although given how long I’d spent in the application process and then wandering around Sea-Tac this morning, I was internally debating. Do I travel a lot? I replied in the affirmative, because I suppose I could have pointed out I have 90+ stamps in a passport that’s 8 years old, but really, who needs that kind of snark? Then the usual about how long and why I’m here, and if I’m transporting delicious fresh fruit and vegetables, and then done.

And then with a spring in my step, off down a corridor and a train and three escalators and into a taxi. Travel is almost done for the day.

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