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Little-Known Programs Help Travelers Avoid Long Airport Lines

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DFW AIRPORT (CBSDFW.COM) – Long lines at the airport can have a dizzying effect on travelers.

“You never know how long the line is going to be,” said traveler Dillon Holder.

With long lines to get to the security checkpoint and long lines going through customs, DFW can be a seemingly endless maze of feet standing around for hours.

But, what most travelers we spoke with did not realize is that there are actually ways you can glide right in and go right through.

And, in some cases, the programs use technology we once saw only in a James Bond movie.

A company called Clear uses these hi-tech kiosks so you can avoid a long line just to get up to the security checkpoint where an agent verifies your identity.

“Definitely, a faster way to get through the airport,” said Clear customer Carol Foster.

Foster signed up. Once registered and approved in the program, all she and other customers have to do is go to the kiosk, place their fingers on it and insert their boarding pass. After it verifies who you are, you go right to screening.

Foster says before joining clear:

“I would probably have planned 30 minutes to an hour, but I’m not sure that would have been enough today…There haven’t been any lines in the Clear lanes, so I walk right in.  It’s very quick.”

It costs $179 per year with an additional $50 for a spouse. The program is free for kids 18 and under.

But it is limited and only available at terminal E-8 at DFW and three other airports, San Francisco, Orlando, and Denver. Clear’s manager says they want to expand.

“We would love to be in as many airports as we can get into,” said Bryan Leonard, Clear DFW Manager.

But keep in mind the airlines already have expedited lines to get to the checkpoint for their most frequent fliers — free of charge. And then there are the checkpoints themselves.
“It’s a necessary nuisance and sometimes I don’t think it’s necessary.  Then it just becomes a nuisance,” said pre-check customer Brent Sill.

Sill travels for business every week. He signed up for the TSA’s “pre-check” program. It allows travelers to go through an expedited screening. Their information is imbedded in the barcode on their boarding pass.

“If you’re determined to be a low risk traveler, you don’t have to take off your belt, your shoes, and unpack every single belonging you’ve ever owned,” Sill said.

This program is also limited. At DFW, it is open only to American Airlines’ frequent fliers who are approved. The expedited screenings are at checkpoints in terminals A-35, C-30, and D-30.
But even if you are enrolled, there’s still no guarantee you will get an expedited screening.

“Travel is tough these days,” said traveler Daniel Diel.

Diel knows. He just returned from London and now is among the hundreds of people waiting on line in customs.

“Ten hours on an airplane then an hour on line, it’s all good,” Diel said.

He did not know that since 2009, U.S. customs and border protection unveiled its “Global Entry” program at DFW. Instead of getting stuck in the line, travelers who sign up and approved, go right to kiosks and place their passports and hand on the machine. They can be cleared about 35 seconds later.

Global Entry customer Carlos Horan says it is money well spent.

“I’m not wasting time.  I’m coming home from a trip, I want to get home.  I want to connect to another flight fast. This is the only way to do it,” Horan said.

Global entry costs $100 per person and lasts for five years. Before being approved, customs officials will interview you. But once you are in, you also qualify for the TSA pre-check program.

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