14 hours in the US and the CBP and TSA do their best to make this ‘Trusted Traveler’ not want to come back

The Rapid Traveler had a tight turnaround between vacation and a last minute business trip, with no chance to stop back in New York. He landed in Miami from Lima at 19:30, connected on American to Atlanta, arriving just past midnight, and then got a Delta connection at 09:50 this morning to Mexico City. He had enjoyed two weeks of sensible, quality airports and airport security in South America.

Oft singing the praises of the CBP’s Trusted Traveler programs and jazzed by his first experience of the TSA Pre-Check program, The Rapid Traveler let entitlement creep in and expected to breeze past the huddled crowds. Instead, he got this:

  • 19:30, The Rapid Traveler cruised to the deserted Global Entry terminals at MIA and did the usual breeze by the CBP agent, holding his passport and receipt up. The CBP agent glared and snidely said, “You can stop anytime.” Not a good start for his first Miami Global Entry experience, as the agent slowly studied the receipt, as if Global Entry were new to him. The CBP agents at every other airport specifically tell people to walk through without stopping.
  • 19:35, before reaching baggage claim, another gatekeeper stopped him and ploddingly studied the receipt, another novelty as usually the next gatekeeper is at the exit.
  • 19:38, with no checked baggage, The Rapid Traveler headed to the exit and almost did not break stride at the exit until he saw the CBP agent at the exit also slowly looking over the receipt, as if a moon rock. Eventually he turned it over, wrote on it and stamped it and pronounced, “Go to door 8.”
  • 19:40-20:10, the fun begins. Door 8 is Secondary Baggage Inspection. Of eight visible CBP agents, one was examining another hapless businessman with no checked luggage, while the others were in various states of idyll. Eventually a sullen agent came over, is about to start, and then took a long phone call. Eventually she repeatedly asks the purpose of his trip, asks that he produce hotel receipts (he had none), etc. She then tells him to put his bags on a scanner and ‘go around to the front.’ ‘Front’ meant ‘back’ and when she saw him go to the front, she intoned, “Are you ok?” Biting his tongue he said, “I misunderstood what you meant by ‘front’.” The old-timer manning the scanner said, “There is nothing there, a computer, some books.” She was quite disappointed but finally let him go, no doubt typing a nastygram in her system. So much for being a ‘Trusted Traveler.’
  • 20:10-00:05, not much to say about the MIA-ATL connection except that the American and Delta terminals at MIA are separate so The Rapid Traveler could not get work done in the Delta Sky Club.
  • 08:30-09:05. When he needs it, he doesn’t get Pre-Check, since it is random among eligible people, though the constant stream of people seemed like he was the only one randomly selected out. Sure, get selected when no one is in line but  get rejected when hundreds of people are stacked up and he is carrying toys for colleagues’ children that make noises every time they are bumped. Forced to go through the body scanner, scolded for a tissue in his chest pocket and bag searched for phantom liquids, he finally emerged.
  • 09:05-12:30, uneventful flight to Mexico City. Of course the upgrade did not clear for him or anyone, darn people paying for first class!
  • 12:30-12:45, friendly, efficient, professional immigration and customs in Mexico City.
  • 13:30, heavenly taco stand lunch with colleagues. Too bad he didn’t find a way to catch a flight straight from Lima to Mexico City!

None of this is particularly horrifying but illustrates the wisdom of Joe Brancatelli’s argument in Portfolio that these programs will not succeed unless they are predictable. The Rapid Traveler thought he would get Pre-Check treatment so slept 4 hours instead of 3, and in the end was in a bad mood, born out of entitlement, as he boarded a plane with overhead bins full of jackets and small satchels and had to check his carry-on. Paying that $100 for Global Entry creates service expectations that the CBP feels no obligation to meet, and the TSA is walking down the same path.In two weeks The Rapid Traveler unfortunately has another go at Global Entry in Miami. This time he will shave in advance, and try to follow Joe Brancatelli’s October 19 column’s advice to “go Zen and be polite.” Anyway, the tacos in Mexico City were worth it.Anyone had good, bad or indifferent experiences at Miami with Global Entry?

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