How close are you willing to cut it with Global Entry?

Global Entry, which is an expedited immigration program, has revolutionized the international travel experience for me. I remember always dreading the end of my international flights not because I was sad to be evicted from a great first class product, but rather because I dreaded waiting in an immigration queue for an hour.

Global Entry eliminates the wait, the hassle, and the paperwork, which makes it totally awesome. But it’s actually creating it’s own problems by causing me to try and push my luck by booking less-than-legal connections for the airports at which I clear immigration.

For example, back in November I flew from Hong Kong to San Francisco and then San Francisco to Seattle on a separate ticket. I only left a 70 minute layover, while the minimum connection time for international to domestic connections at San Francisco is 105 minutes. I made my connection with no problem, and at no point felt uneasy about the decision.

Well, I’m faced with a bit more extreme of a situation in a few weeks and am wondering just how far I want to push my luck with Global Entry.

I’m scheduled to land in Chicago from an international flight and would love to make it back to Seattle the same night. The catch is that the last flight of the night to Seattle is only 40 minutes after I land. Assuming everything is on-time and I only have carry-ons I think I could make the connection. Then again I find international flights are often early, so it could be that I have plenty of time. Or maybe my inbound flight will be delayed, and I’ll be screwed.

But I guess I’m still not sure, because worst case scenario I miss the flight I booked and stand by the following morning.

So do you book the tight connection and ask for forgiveness later, or err on the side of caution? What’s your personal limit for how tight you’ll cut it with Global Entry?

Filed Under: Security/TSA
  1. Aren’t you a bit concerned with the change of terminal?
    The most annoying part of flying through O’Hare is that you have to take a train to Terminal One/Two/Three!


  2. Err on the side of caution, especially at O’Hare where you can get a pretty cheap room at the airport Hilton which is easily accessible. It’s different if you’re at a place like DEN where you have to leave your hotel 30 minuets before you want to be at Check In because everything is so far away.

  3. United ticketed a 45 minute international to international connection at LAX for me in late 2011. I made it with just a few minutes to spare, thanks in full to us sitting at the gate for 10 minutes, during which time a fully loaded 747 arrived.

    Like you said, the worst that can happen is you miss the connection and they rebook you the next morning. Seems to me like you book the 40 minute connection and the worst that happens is you get home when you would if you book the flight the next morning.

  4. This situation is just a matter of costs and benefits and percentages. It depends on how much you have to gain vs. the likelihood and incremental expenses and time if you do miss the flight.

  5. The shortest connection I’ve ever made at OHare is 40 minutes. A lot depends on how many machines they have working. When I went through in Nov only two kiosks were working, that connection was 60 min and I made it in 55.

  6. I’ve rarely waited more than a minute or 2 with GE at ORD, although sometimes its can be a long walk to customs at Terminal 5. Even with no checked bags, you have to catch the train back to the domestic terminals and reclear security, hopefully with PreCheck.

    You have to hope for an on time or early arrival, even with that it will be tight, but you should be okay.

  7. The issue isn’t GE/Customs but the train from T5 to any other terminal and then re clearing security.

  8. Unless, your flight is early, you most likely will miss your connection if it arrives at the gate 40 mins before your connection due to terminal change.

    On a less extreme scale, I have an upcoming 70 mins connection at EWR and I am a little uneasy about it since 757s often arrive at B then I will have to get over to C. If I arrive at C then I do not have to worry.

  9. I would book it but with a back-up plan…. Reserve a room at the Hilton in case things don’t work out.

  10. Why not book it? Especially if its just you. I could see if you had a family of 4 or something why it wouldnt work. But you are nimble and will be moving quickly. Im sure it’ll work out fine.

  11. For some perspective:

    The sad thing is that you even need GE to begin with. In less paranoid countries, citizens aren’t asked any questions, and the whole process takes maybe 10-15 seconds. If for some reason you don’t want to see a real person at all, you can use those e-passport gates (which of course don’t require enrollment ala GE). It’s a sad state of affairs in the US.

  12. With regards to re clearing security again it woul also depend what night of the week you’re traveling. I recently flew out of ORD on a Sunday night and all security lines were very long mostly full of business travelers. That alone took 20+ minutes to get through.

  13. Too tight especially since it is not on the same ticket with the potential issues around it.
    I have waited 10 or more minutes for the train at some occasions.
    In a perfect world you can make it but who is waiting for you at home except your heavenly bed? See how much the Hilton costs, it is a close walk and not a bad hotel.

  14. Its not Immigration but customs which can still cause you significant delays. in IAD they have a separate Global Entry customs line (which is usually empty) so its not an issue. In ORD there is none, so while it may take you 5 minutes to get by the Kiosks it may take you much longer to snake through the customs line.

  15. In regards to GE, I recently returned to EWR from DEL, I used the kiosk and after taking my fingerprints a Giant X appeared on the screen and instructions to take the ticket to an agent. A GIANT BLACK X appeared on the ticket the kiosk spit out. I had to take the ticket to an agent. Fortunately they had a dedicated agent for this as I had no wait. He made a comment that it was strange this happened as my passport scanned just fine. He asked 2 questions and let me through. My point is sometimes unexpected things happen, just be prepared.

  16. One new thing at ORD with GE recently is you can’t proceed straight to customs; the CBP agent with the dedicated GE counter will ask you to join the line at his counter so he can verify your exit ticket. So with this “change”, train to terminal and TSA, 40 mins at ORD may be a bit too close…

  17. Can’t make that. I just had a 35 at ORD, flew through, even had Pre-Check work at security…made it to the gate at T-10, but had already been offloaded. Walking distances/train waiting times are just too long.

    Though I did get away with a 45 at LAX in November, which was just crazy considering I had checked bags.

  18. I have GE and Pre-Check. My last trip through ORD customs resulted in a “random” full on bag search and interrogation. If I had had a 40 minute connection I would have been hosed.

  19. Made int’l to domestic (gate to gate) in 25 minutes at EWR with GE and without bags, I had about 60 to make the connection. Don’t know if I’d risk it on a separate ticket though.

  20. I would be very tense if I had only 40 minutes to get to my next flight. How many times you landed and the plane took forever to get to the gate. Then you get there and the gate is occupied. šŸ™ ORD and JFK are typical airports for those things to happen. I also had 2 different experiences with GE: on one I printed my paper and went straight to customs and was cleared in no time; the other after printing the paper I still had to show my passport to an office in the immigration area who checked everything. I was placed in front of the line but still added a step to the process.

  21. why can’t the next AM be booked and then a change made to last flight out over wifi/mobile network in the last 30 min once you know your odds of winning the obstacle race? “in a few weeks” = gives you weather-delay cover as well.

  22. GE is fine it is just re-clearing security at ORD since TSA pre-check doesn’t work for incoming International Flights.

  23. Do you have CLEAR? ORD doean’t support it, but at airports that do, that makes a difference too.

  24. I don’t have Global Entry yet. On my last international return a few weeks ago I was first in the immigration queue having sat in first. I watched the Global Entry folks go through the kiosk and pickup maybe 5 minutes on me. Then however we all sat around waiting for bags.

    Unless you’re willing to travel internationally with carryons, is GE worth it?

  25. @CVG_Kid: It’s worth it for that one time every year when three flights converge and customs lines flow back into the terminal. When you hit one of those, you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t apply for GE.

  26. I made a 35 minute connection from in CDG connecting from BKK-CDG on Thai to CDG-FRA on LH a few months ago. We actually made it with enough time to go to the LH lounge in CDG and get a snack, and to guzzle the bottle of Dom that TG gave us on the flight at the security checkpoint.

    Also had a 40 minute international connection at FRA on the same trip.

    Good clean living must have helped.

  27. If you KNOW they’ll let you go standby the next morning and not have to purchase a new ticket, by all means why not try to make it?!

  28. Global Entry saved me on a tight JFK-LGA connection. I think I was supposed to have 2.5h+, but my LH flight arrived late at JFK and I was left with just over an hour. Luckily I was in F, so was one of the first off the plane. I was in a cab within 5 minutes, gate to gate in about 30-40! (But I would never intentionally set myself up for that!)

  29. People comparing this to CDG, FRA, or even EWR aren’t comparing apples to apples. At ORD, the problem isn’t immigration…it’s the distances, the need to wait for/sit on the train, and the potential for long security lines.

  30. @ Adrian — Definitely a concern, but I’m quick and I think I could do it in less than 40 minutes.

    @ Jeff Jones — Unless I’m missing something, Global Entry members are allowed to cut to the front of the customs line at all airports as well if there’s not a dedicated line (even though it seems to cause a big fight with those in line).

    @ sjs — How’d you check bags on a 45 minute connection? Late inbound? Impressive!

    @ gb — Well because most airlines don’t let you change to a different calendar year, unfortunately (while if you miss the last flight of the night they’ll usually let you stand by for the following day).

    @ Antonio — I don’t, since I kind of figured with Pre-Check it’s not all that useful.

    @ CVG_Kid — It can still make sense. Often immigration queues are over an hour, while it only takes 20 or so minutes to wait for checked bags. Global Entry also lets you cut the customs queue.

  31. “But itā€™s actually creating itā€™s own problems by causing me to try and push my luck by booking less-than-legal connections for the airports at which I clear immigration.”

    So, GE is creating a problem for you by being too quick and GE is causing you to act recklessly? You sound suspiciously like pretty much every defendant I have ever prosecuted.


  32. Go for it, since at worst, you’ll fly standby the next day. Even if those flights are full, you’ll eventually catch a later flight.

  33. @ Ben, don’t you know by know that I can get away with murder?

    Also, beware cutting to the front of the customs line at ORD – ain’t that easy. The main access is roped off, so the lines grow horizontally away. There’s minimal room between the lines and the ropes to squeeze through – so you have to be pretty aggressive.

  34. No Customs Queue jumping at ORD ;^). They directed us to the main customs line which took about 30 minutes. You might have luck pressing your case. As great as GE is its a shame they don’t have consistent setup. IAD was amazing 2 minutes for Immigration, 1 minute for customs (with the normal customs line snaking out of site)

  35. @ Jeff — It might just be for the better, hah. Last time I was at JFK I asked an officer where the Global Entry customs queue was. He indicated to just cut everyone else. The line was long so I did what he told me, though only after being cussed at by about a dozen New Yorkers. Not fun!

  36. I am 99% sure that last time I went through ORD (about 2 months ago) there was a GE customs line over at the extreme right hand side of the exit area. [There was also a line for ticket check right after the GE kiosks. Some idiot complaining about this did not speed things up.]

  37. A few months ago,I arrived at ORD on CX First. Flight was late and left only 30 minutes till domestic AA flight. Was met on jetway by CX agent who escorted me to front of immigration line(even though I could have used GE)and then to front of customs line, on to the train and then to the front of the priority security lane at domestic terminal. Door closed on AA flight as soon as I boarded.

    Providing your inbound flight is on time, and line when you reclear security isn’t bad, you should make it. I would have missed my flight if I didn’t get to cut the line reclearing security.

    If you end up missing your connection, you’ll have more material to blog and tweet about. Good luck!

  38. Two weeks ago returning from BKK/NRT on UA at ORD, *every* passenger, including GE, was required to put their bags on the ag x-ray. It was a 30-minute queue. And they don’t allow GE’s to cut lines.

    Plus, I can verify that every int’l itinerary I’ve had, pre-check was not allowed, even returning to a domestic flight (and I’m 24/25 on pure domestics).

  39. I think you can make it… and that you have the means to book a flight the next day if it doesn’t work out. If you can afford to take risks, then why not just go for it? What’s the few thousand points it will take for a domestic connection in the worst case scenario when you can have amazing bragging rights. Your readers will love the story!

  40. I was in Dublin and the security line was fine (because I was eligible for fastrack, but when I got to preclear, it was a mess. The lines were probably 50+ minutes long. Although, I had Global Entry! There was literally one or two people at the pair of kiosks and instead of waiting for an hour I was through in less than 5 minutes!

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