I love living in Southern California but I have not always loved arriving at LAX’s international terminal. I have always wondered whether Global Entry benefits would make traveling though this hub more palatable. Finally on my last trip, I had a chance to find out.
Blame the construction, the congestion, and the sheer number of flights coming in and out of this hub… Arriving here after a long flight can be quite trying. First of all there is a long walk to the terminal (and depending on which gate you arrive at, you may not find a bathroom for a ways). Then there are the lines for Passport control. Long, long lines. Whether or not you are a citizen. Arriving on a 10 hour flight from Stockholm last summer, it took us exactly 2 hours to get through immigration, baggage collection and customs, where we were finally spit out into the main arrivals terminal and greeted by family that worried too much about getting to airport “on time”
All of this was the impetus for me to finally apply and pay the fee for Global Entry. As a frequent traveler, this allows you to get through security cues more quickly. In order to qualify you must first submit to a thorough background check and then an in person interview, where you are fingerprinted and issued a trusted traveler ID number. A few weeks later I also received a card in the mail.
Now, whenever I fly I can use the trusted traveler number when I make my reservations and qualify for shorter, faster TSA Pre Check lines. No more taking off my shoes, removing my laptop from its case and worrying about whether lipgloss in my purse is technically a liquid, and about to get me in trouble.
I received my approvals in late August and was very excited to enjoy my Global Entry benefits upon my arrival to US from the Philippines recently. I wanted to see how much faster and easier things could be.
To make it even more interesting, I was traveling business class, in Row 1 with my bags having been priority (first off) tagged for arrival. How fast, with this privileged status, I wondered, could I make it through the airport and out to the general arrival area? And also, how much faster than if I had been traveling coach, without the Global Entry or priority bag tagging?
Conveniently, for me (less for him) my husband was traveling on the same flight as me, in row 65, without Global Entry benefits.
Needless to say, I was off the flight very quickly and through passport control in under 8 minutes. When I texted my husband to check his progress, he reported that he was still cued to de-plane
I hit my first snafu when I got to the baggage carousel, long before my luggage. A technical problem was delaying delivery of the bags. Fellow biz class/global entry passengers with carry ons breezed out to the main terminal and I noted their total transit time from gate to street as under ten minutes. Ten minutes! I knew it would be faster but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it going that fast!
I took the opportunity to visit the restroom and by the time I got back I spied by bags on the belt, loaded them onto a cart and headed out to the terminal. It was 16 minutes from when I had deplaned to when I was grabbing a coffee from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the main international arrival terminal. It would be another 40 minutes till my husband caught up with me, despite the fact that this was one of the least crowded arrivals I’ve experienced recently.
All this confirmed my hunch that as someone who travels very frequently, I am not going to regret enrolling in the Global Entry program and I will be enjoying the Global Entry benefits each and every time I fly. Hours will be saved. Hassles will not be had. Travel is about to get a lot less stressful.
Now if I could only afford to always fly business class too!