The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has consistently out-innovated the TSA. The TSA’s Pre-Check is a nice pilot but a faint echo of the CBP’s excellent Trusted Traveler Programs, like Global Entry. Even prior to Global Entry, The Rapid Traveler’s experience with the CBP, outside Miami, has been much more consistent and positive than with the TSA.
Landing in Atlanta from Cancun, Mexico yesterday, as the plane pulled up to the gate, a flight attendant announced, “Those with only carry-on luggage, please take a card from the agent greeting the flight to receive expedited immigration, customs clearance and security.” Words sweet as honey, and totally new to The Rapid Traveler.
There was a Delta agent on the jetbridge handing out large laminated cards with the CBP logo, the slogan “Making Global Travel Easier,” a diagram of flight landing, agent, flight departing with lots of action arrows, and a footer, “Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Atlanta, Georgia.”
Being a gigantic airport and Delta’s hub, international transfers are further stressed by passengers with Atlanta as final destination as the poor design of Terminal E requires even arrivals to pass through security to exit. Unaware passengers with insufficient transfer time often miss their flights. Terminal F, which The Gate has an excellent photo tour, will alleviate this problem, though may make transfers less convenient.
The appeal of selecting those with carry-on luggage only is that it is open to all who meet the free requirement, unlike the other programs that are typically limited to US citizens/permanent residents and charge fees. Those with checked luggage should already be buffering more time for their connections, and if they do not, they may be expedited but their luggage may be left behind anyway. And a high proportion of those with carry-on luggage only are high maintenance, short-fuse road warriors (The Rapid Traveler included) that are best shunted to the side to avoid confrontation with the general traveling public.
The flight arrived mid-afternoon to a deserted immigration hall so the program was not needed, but there were signs for dedicated lines at immigration and security, delivering travelers smoothly as far as the TSA’s doorstep. Global Entry members need no benefit at immigration, but the security shortcut is nice.
The CBP website has no announcement of this program, neither does Delta. It is unclear if it is a Delta-only program or if it is at any other airport. FlyerTalk has a thread started yesterday by a person that arrived from London, so it must have started yesterday as the time it takes for these things to reach FlyerTalk is measured in milliseconds.
The CBP should be applauded for actually trying to improve the service they provide. Here’s to hoping the program spreads far and fast.