Travel can be one of the most exciting things in the world. You get to see new places, taste new foods, meet new people and see some pretty amazing things outside of your own little area of the world. This is even true when you are traveling for business! But no matter how fun the actual trip may be, there is a good chance that your airport experience will be less exciting. In fact, for many people it is downright frustrating. This is due heavily to the trip through airport security lines which always seem to be backed up. I have found myself wondering on more than one occasion whether or not the line was actually a black hole waiting to swallow me up. The good news is that there are now more options to help get you through airport security lines faster and with more of your sanity intact than ever before. But just as with everything else, good things come at a price and often have a few downsides. Let’s go through the three ways you can bypass the nightmare of a line and pinpoint the pros and cons for each one.
Option 1: Global Entry (Nexus and Sentri also offer the same program)
Global Entry is a program that is targeted towards those who travel a lot; especially internationally. But, even if you do not fly a lot this option is still open to you. This program was developed in order to speed up the customs and security processes. Global Entry is for those who travel all over the world. Sentri and Nexus are for those who only travel to Canada and Mexico. So what do you get out of using programs like this? You get faster services through customs and clearance that is pre-approved. You can only get this service once heavy duty security checks are done on you and you are deemed to be a low risk flyer. You can fill out your application for any of these three international programs online. Once your application is received along with your $100 application fee, you will be given an interview by the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency. Oh, and you have to actually pass the interview in order to be approved. To travel with these programs you have to go to the proper airport kiosk when you arrive at the airport, show your passport and scan your fingerprints for further verification of who you are. Once you have passed this point you simply go through the proper line and wait for your boarding call. The pro is that you get to steer clear of lines for boarder control. The con is that the application fee which is an investment that you have to make upfront whether you pass the interview or not.
Option 2: Black Diamond Self Select
As with option 1, this one also allows you to bypass all the long and aggravating lines. This is the most popular program of its kind with 51 airports implementing it. It is modeled after color schemes and ski icons. Each path is boasts a different color and are designed to make it faster to get through the airport. If you are using this program, when you get to the airport you will choose one of three lanes to go through. Each one is marked clearly for your specific needs. For instance, the green lane is for people who are traveling with small kids and/or strollers and people with special needs. There are really no cons to this program and there are also no fees attached to it which makes it my ideal way to travel with my boys.
Option 3: Clear
This is a program, which unlike the others, does not have any sort of connection with the TSA. Clear takes away verification checks and security clearance. Those with Clear memberships use biometric scanning processes to get through security such as fingerprinting and iris identification which means that a machine scans your eyes. (Pretty cool right?) When Clear members arrive at the airport they are scanned at the proper kiosk and go directly though security screening. This provides the highest level of convenience available for travelers. I have already listed the pros, but are there any cons? The answer to that question depends on if you annual salary is that of the average Joe or someone like Bill Murray. The yearly cost for having the honor of being a Clear member is $179. This may not sound like much (and it may not be if you travel frequently enough for it to make a significant difference), but for someone like me it is quite the chunk of change. Personally I would rather wait in line!