If you hate long lines at airport security checkpoints watch out, the impact of budget sequestration in Washington may make them longer.Even if Congress finds its way out of this budget battle, the reviving economy means more travelers -- and longer security lines.But there is a better way.To get through security and customs a lot quicker, consider signing up for two programs offered by U.S. Customs Border Protection.The first is called Global Entry. While designed primarily for international travel, the program will also give you access to faster security lines in the second program worth looking at: TSA's PreCheck program for domestic flights.Both programs have exceeded enrollment expectations in the few years they have been running, according to officials.The Global Entry program, which started in 2009 at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, now has 34,000 members in North Texas, says Kirk Gomes, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) supervisory officer of the program in Dallas."It's grown beyond our expectation," he said. "I started with four officers doing 24 interviews each day. Now I have two teams and we do over 100 a day."At DFW, between 260 and 300 members use the program daily, Gomes said. Nationally, more than 1.2 million have signed up since it began in 2008.To handle the increased work in Texas, CBP opened a Global Entry program in San Antonio last month and is opening one in Austin in the next few months, Gomes said. The program is already running in Houston.The program starts with an online application, which requires a $100 processing fee and a valid passport. After review, CBP will schedule a face-to-face interview with a customs official at its center in DFW's Terminal D two to three weeks later. At that interview, officials check original documents and photograph enrollees. If they pass all the requirements, new members are then taught how to use one of 16 kiosks at the customs area of Terminal D.Once a member, you can use your fingerprint to bypass the passport lines when entering the country at DFW and 43 other airports in the U.S., as well as at airports in Mexico, Canada, South Korea and the Netherlands.Minor children -- even babies -- are also allowed in the program, Gomes said. (Previously, Global Entry was only for people age 14 and older.)If you bring back food or other items, the program allows you to declare them at the kiosk electronically. If the item needs to be reviewed by customs or a duty paid, Global Entry members get to go to the front of the customs line, Gomes said. Members also get to go to the front of the line for baggage check by customs.After recently waiting in both lines after an international flight from London for more than an hour at DFW, the $100 membership fee, good for five years, may be worth it."On average the wait time with Global Travel is about two minutes from the Global Entry to your bags," Gomes said. "You also get to use a private exit for Global Entry members, crew members and diplomats."Even more attractive, you are automatically enrolled in the TSA's PreCheck program, said Luis Casanova, TSA spokesman in Texas.The PreCheck program gets you into a faster line at DFW security. Started in a pilot program at the airport in 2011 with only frequent flier members invited by their airlines, the program is now open to anyone enrolled in Global Travel.Nationally, 6.5 million are enrolled in the PreCheck program and it is also growing steadily, Casanova said."We expect to have 41 airports in the program by April," he said.In addition to a shorter line, PreCheck members don't have to remove shoes, belts or jackets going through security, nor remove laptops from bags. And they can skip the rules about putting liquids in little bottles in a see-through bag.Members must fly on one of five airlines using the program: American Airlines, US Airways, Delta, United Airlines and Alaskan Air. When booking a ticket online, members enter their Global Entry account number in the "Known Traveler Number" field or in their frequent flier profile that will be passed onto TSA for review. When flying, the PreCheck member's boarding pass is encoded to allow them to enter the PreCheck lines at security. For both programs, passengers could still be subject to random screening measures.While the programs are passenger-friendly, background checks are run every 24 hours on members to ensure the program is secure, Gomes said.If a misdemeanor or felony charge like a DWI occurs, the system will pick it up. If found guilty, membership will be revoked, Gomes said.International travel at DFW was up almost 10 percent in 2012, to 6.1 million passengers, said David Magaña, spokesman for the airport. "The more people we can get signed up for these programs, the better our lines will be," he said.Teresa McUsic's column appears Saturdays.TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net
Faster airport security programs
Global Entry -- Cost is $100, membership good for five years. Enter country and declare customs electronically at kiosk at DFW International and 43 other U.S. airports, as well as airports in Mexico, Canada, South Korea and the Netherlands. Apply online at www.globalentry.gov. In-person interviews are at Terminal D at DFW, although CBP will also do interviews at a company upon request.
TSA PreCheck -- Automatic with Global Entry membership. Enter Global Entry account number when booking flight reservations with American Airlines, US Airways, Delta, United and Alaskan Air. Boarding pass encoded to allow PreCheck security line at gates A35, C20, D30 and E15 at DFW. Forty other airports will have PreCheck by April. To learn more, go to www.tsa.gov and click on TSA PreCheck tab.