Two More Reasons I Will Not Pay For Global Entry or TSA Pre✓
Prior to Tuesday, September 11, 2001, virtually all passengers at virtually all airports in the United States were able to pass through security checkpoints with their shoes on; with whatever amount of liquids they wanted to carry in their bags which they carry aboard airplanes with them; and they were able to pass through a metal detector instead of a body scanner.
Two More Reasons I Will Not Pay For Global Entry or TSA Pre✓
In order to enjoy a similar experience at an airport security checkpoint in the United States these days, you are required to complete a two-step application process — both via the Internet and by attending an interview in person — and pay a fee of $85.00 in order to enroll for five years in the TSA Pre✓ Program of the Transportation Security Administration; and that fee cannot be refunded once paid. The fee works out to $17.00 per year.
All travelers are required to be processed by the personnel of Customs and Border Protection when arriving from outside of the United States — but effective as of Friday, June 6, 2008, one can pay an application fee of $100.00 to be pre-approved for a trusted traveler program known as Global Entry to bypass the long lines and speed through the process. The application fee is only to be paid one time.
Upon first glance, one would wonder why anyone who travels would not willfully join and pay for one or both of these trusted traveler programs — but I still refuse to pay for either the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ programs for reasons cited later in this article.
Two additional reasons why I refuse to pay for either the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ programs are based on experiences.
Reason 1: The TSA Pre✓ Line Closes at Inopportune Times
Passengers who travel from outside of the United States and arrive at Miami International Airport must go through customs and a full screening process — and this can create a scene of chaos when a large bank of flights conclude at approximately the same time.
When I arrived at Miami International Airport from South America recently, I was able to be processed through a kiosk at customs with no wait and no problem without the benefit of being a member of Global Entry. Once finished, I was given a slip of paper with my image on it which designated me as eligible for TSA Pre✓, for which I have never paid.
The lines were long at the scanners which screen passengers at the security checkpoint; but the TSA Pre✓ line was clearly the shortest, with a wait of 30 minutes less than the regular line which snaked its way around the stanchions and ribbon barriers.
Suddenly, a woman who is an agent of the Transportation Security Administration started directing people out of the TSA Pre✓ line and into the regular line.
“Why are we being transferred out of the Pre✓ line?”, one passenger asked.
“Because the Pre✓ line is closing”, she replied. The time was approximately 8:00 in the evening on a Saturday night; and lines were long. More personnel and lines were needed at this point, not fewer.
Once the Transportation Security Administration agent left, some frustrated passengers sneaked back into the TSA Pre✓ line by undoing one of the ribbons. The Transportation Security Administration agent eventually returned, noticed the undone ribbon and reattached it in front of a man who was also attempting to sneak back into the TSA Pre✓ line.
“Why aren’t you letting me back in the line?!?” asked the exasperated passenger. “I am eligible for Pre✓. Look.” He waved his boarding pass. “See?!?”
“The Pre✓ line is closed” is what the Transportation Security Administration agent replied without even looking at him, her back towards him.
“This is bulls**t!” was his response.
I can only imagine what the people who paid for the privilege of the TSA Pre✓ program must have thought when they were not even permitted to use the dedicated line. Could that night have been an anomaly in which most other times, the area is as empty as a ghost town which would warrant the line being closed at 8:00 in the evening?
While that is possible, I highly doubt that for some reason.
Reason 2: Global Entry Members are Not Immune From SSSS Selection
A friend of mine who is 54 years old purchased a round-trip ticket this past March on Singapore Airlines from Newark to Bali with a very short connection in Singapore on both the outbound and return legs.
Prior to his trip, he applied for Global Entry, which included a mandatory interview in person at the airport conducted by agents of the Transportation Security Administration. He answered all various exploratory questions pertaining to his past and also confirmed that he has never been convicted of a crime of any kind. He was successfully granted trusted traveler status and eventually received his Global Entry card.
Additionally, he has been a member of the TSA Pre✓ program for years, so this process was familiar to him.
For the return trip on which both flight segments were operated by Singapore Airlines, he was granted an upgrade to a seat in the business class cabin aboard the airplane on the flight from Bali to Singapore; and he was seated in the premium economy class cabin aboard the Airbus A350-900ULR airplane on the flight from Singapore to Newark…
…but when he checked in for his flight from Bali to Singapore and received his boarding passes for both legs of the return trip, he immediately noticed the dreaded SSSS designation on his boarding pass for the leg from Singapore to Newark. SSSS are the initials for Secondary Security Screening Selection which will appear on your boarding pass when you have been selected by the Secure Flight system of the Transportation Security Administration for “enhanced security screening” at the security checkpoint of an airport.
“This instantly caused me angst”, he said to me. “Why was I selected for increased security? Didn’t I recently go through a thorough background check by US authorities prior to this trip? Hadn’t I worked 13 years with Delta Air Lines in Atlanta with access to Delta’s cockpits as an approved jumpseat rider and access to the ramps at US airports? Didn’t I work with the FAA to bring the Aviation Safety Action Program to Delta? Did this count for nothing? Shouldn’t this have deeply downgraded me to a virtually zero threat to aviation security? Surely, there must have been at least one passenger on that plane whose background was not as exculpatory as mine.”
As he has never received anything more than a speeding ticket in his lifetime, he wondered why he was identified out of all of the passengers on the flight from Singapore to the United States as a heightened security threat warranting additional scrutiny. “I was immediately agitated and my agitation escalated to fury and indignation”, he continued. “Hundreds of passengers were on my flight. Doubtless that many/most were not US citizens. And yet I was selected for additional screening. A US citizen with zero criminal history AND so-called Trusted Traveler status. Yet I was ‘randomly’ selected for additional security measures.”
He had a number of thoughts and concerns which went through his mind: what if his baggage picked up some trace of an illicit substance while in the vehicle that transported him to the airport? What if his baggage picked up some trace of some illegal agent while going through baggage handling? Was he going to be sent to an infamous Singapore prison? What if something came up during the SSSS search and he missed his connection in Singapore, whose duration was slightly greater than one hour? “I did some quick research online and read stories of extensive additional body and carry-on searches because of the dreaded SSSS.”
He was agitated when he approached the security checkpoint at Singapore Changi Airport. “I was expecting a full body cavity search further validated because of my recent hip replacement that would surely set off any type of increased body scanning. I breezed through the magnetometer with no problem. Of course, my boarding pass was identified and a supplemental search was initiated.”
Upon showing his passport to the agent of the Transportation Security Administration, he said to her that “I guess this counts for nothing” as he also immediately showed his Global Entry identification card that was tucked into his passport holder.
“I’m sorry, Washington tells us we have to do this,” she replied in a gloriously sympathetic tone.
His angst immediately subsided as he watched agents of the Transportation Security Administration do nothing more than swab his carry-on bag for explosive material — but his opinion remains staunch pertaining to what he considers “the utter absurdity of the supplemental security process” and a “horrendous waste of security resources” as to why he was selected for SSSS screening.
“To the simple minds who suggest that ‘we are all potential terrorists’ I would ask ‘really?’”, he said. “So of 200 people on that flight from SIN to EWR I was deemed just as likely to be a terrorist as the great number of non-US citizens on that flight…who don’t have Trusted Traveler status…who have never worked for a US airline with the multiple security checks required to do so…who have hundreds of documented travel itineraries all over the globe?”
He wonders what type of system selects someone with trusted traveler status for enhanced security at the expense of vetting other travelers: “I cannot mine any logic to support such idiocy.”
Other Reasons Why I Will Not Pay For Global Entry or TSA Pre✓
In addition to what you just read, reasons which I have stated in past articles as to why I will not pay for either the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ programs include — but are not limited to — the following:
Both the Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ programs are not available at all airports in the United States.
Although frustrating, the inconvenience of long lines and long wait times is an experience I do not encounter often enough to warrant becoming a member of either trusted traveler program.
I have received TSA Pre✓ status often in the past and still do become eligible for it at times without having to pay a penny for it.
Even at airports where both trusted traveler programs are available, Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ are not always available at all hours in which the airport is open for business.
Included in both processes is paying for the privilege of giving the government personal information about yourself — something which many Americans would have loathed to do prior to Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and I still loathe to do today.
I do not believe in paying for a program which used to be offered free of charge — let alone volunteer to go out of my way to offer my personal information in an interview in person with agents of the federal government — as I believe that that is simply ridiculous.
Travelers already pay taxes as part of the airfare we pay for airport security — we should not have to pay again for expedited access which l cannot help but sense that it is a form of legalized coercion or extortion.