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When you spend lots of time in airports, and even if you don’t- breezing through security is nice. It’s the unpredictability of airports that we all hate- so companies and governments have created products to capitalize on that passenger pet peeve. There are quite a few airport fast track options throughout the US and abroad, and we’re going to take a look at the very best.

For Airport Security

TSA PreCheck

Fee & Application: $85 for five years. In person interview and online application. May take many weeks to get an interview. Available only to U.S. citizens.

Acceptance: 180 + U.S. airports on domestic. On select airlines traveling international.

Time Saving? Hit or miss. The lanes can occasionally be busier than standard lanes. While time saving is not guaranteed, conveniences are, such as: keeping laptop in bag, keeping shoes and belts on. It’s a crowded program but can be helpful.

CLEAR

Fee & Application: $179 per year, with two months free. Online application and in person collection of finger prints and retina scan at many locations.

Acceptance: Available in 30 or more U.S. airports + arenas, plans to expand internationally.

Time Saving? Almost always, yes. Bypass all lanes and escort straight to physical screening. No need to pull out wallet. Clear scans your retina, so documents can stay in pocket. Integrated with TSA PreCheck, so if you have that- you get best of both worlds. Time saving + convenience.

For Immigration

Global Entry

Fee & Application: $100 for five years which includes TSA PreCheck. Comp’d by many credit cards including Amex Platinum, Citi Prestige, Chase Sapphire Reserve. Online and in person interview. May take weeks for appt. Available to U.S. Citizens as well as Colombian, German, Mexican, Panamanian, Swiss, Singaporean, South Korean and UK citizens.

Acceptance: 60 Airports in the U.S. and in pre clearance centers abroad such as Dublin, Abu Dhabi and even New Zealand. Kiosks are generally very reliable.

Time Saving? Without a shadow of a doubt. In our opinion, well worth ever penny. 15 minutes or less is virtually guaranteed to clear immigration upon landing. Rarely more than 5 minutes. Speed of kiosks versus officers is excellent, finger prints and electronic declaration save time.

Registered Traveller (UK)

Fee & Application: £70 (~$100) first year, £50 (~$70) thereafter. Application is completed online and finalized at next entrance through UK border. No appointment needed. Eligible to citizens over more than 30 countries, provided they’ve entered the UK 4 times in the last year.

Acceptance: Accepted at 10 UK airports and 3 European Eurostar stations.

Time Saving? Generally- very. UK borders can get very clogged in certain terminals, with countless flights arriving at the same time. Rarely more than 10 minutes through e-gates using Registered Traveller. Bypassing traditional lines and saving passport stamps in favor of kiosk is impressive.

Other Worldwide Programs

Privium/Flux (Netherlands): Available to citizens of many countries, Privium and Flux offer two levels of membership. One even includes business class check in at 19 different airlines, even when flying economy. The fast track on arrival into the Netherlands can be a real win, and the fee is reasonable, especially if you travel there frequently. Fee and application are required.

EasyPASS (Germany): Much like the UK’s Registered Traveller, this is a great program for faster immigration at German airports. You’ll be able to use e-gates at virtually every German airport. The service is available to citizens of many countries, including the US. Fee and application are required.

SmartGate (Australia): SmartGate is yet another easy, time saving service for those holding electronic passports. Citizens of 15 countries and counting, including the U.S. and UK are eligible for SmartGate entry. There’s no fee or application required. Just use your ePassport.

Hong Kong Airport Immigration Fast Track: Did you know your airline loyalty program could get you into the fast track lane? Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Singapore and Virgin Atlantic frequent flyers with elite status can access the fast track channel for free. Here’s a great guide to other eligible programs and how to complete enrollment.

U.S. APEC Business Travel: For business travelers with frequent movement throughout Asia, including China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam- this is a game changer. Though the application process is lengthy- you’ll receive fast track privileges at countless Asian airports. Here’s everything you need to know to apply. Application and fee are required.

 

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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5 Comments

  1. Great post, didn’t know about some of the other programs beyond the US. I’d love to see a future post on airline or class specific priority lines, in line with your HKG mention. For example, the biz/first check in, security, and immigration experience on Thai at BKK saved me from missing my flight back to the US, and I was through all three in under 5 minutes. Would love to know where else status or a premium ticket gets you huge time savings, in addition to the usual FRA Lufthansa first examples. Where are the best values in this regard?

  2. There are some others like tav primeclass. Also many times in my experience with clear, the tsa precheck agent will also look at your documents so it doesn’t always bypass that check but puts you in the front of the line

  3. The Mobile Passport App from US CBP (free) is another great way for US and Canadian citizens to clear immigration at US Gateway airports. You skip the kiosk lines, and at Seattle you skip the immigration lines altogether and the CBP inspector at Customs checks the passport and you scan the receipt on your mobile phone. It doesn’t get you TSA-Pre though.

    And yes per above at BKK arriving and departing pax in business class get priority lines for immigration and security. Airline dependent but I’ve had them with EVA, Air China, Asiana, Thai and ANA (and United when they used to serve BKK). You can pre-purchase it too.

  4. Hi there,
    I am an American citizen, want to register my self in TSA program. Please let me have the details.

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