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I have to admit that I’m not usually in a particularly observant mood when I get off a transatlantic flight in the United States (I’ve usually used up all my observational powers during the flight while writing notes for a flight review) so I’m not sure if a Global Entry benefit that no longer appears to be offered at LAX was a benefit that was just specific to LAX or if it was (and possibly still is) available elsewhere. Whichever it is, if you have Global Entry and are arriving at the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX, your path to the big wide world just got a little more congested.
I love having Global Entry because it almost always helps me get from my seat on the plane to the sidewalk outside the airport terminal in a time that I could only have dreamed about before the Global Entry program was introduced. It always seems to get me through the immigration hall in record time and at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX (TBIT), it has also, historically, got me through the Customs lines in double-quick time.
Apparently, not anymore.
Fo the past 18 months, my main port of entry into the United States has been LAX (a pandemic didn’t seem like a good time to be adding connections if I didn’t have to) and while the immigration hall at TBIT wasn’t really any different to how it has always been (except for the proliferation of masks), one noticeable difference was that there were never any Customs officers around whenever I passed through. Not one.
Throughout the pandemic, I have been able to walk from the immigration hall to the outside world without seeing another member of the US CBP.
Last week, when I arrived at LAX, it was clear that three very key changes had been made since the last time I passed through.
Firstly, TBIT now has new Global Entry machines which are quicker than the machines they replaced and which no longer offer you a receipt after they process your details – a sign saying “proceed” appears on the screen and that’s your cue to move on.
Secondly, the customs officers are back. They’re not sitting at their pre-pandemic booths and processing passengers one by one as they used to, but passengers are being asked to file past them (and their sniffer dogs) as they pass through.
Thirdly, the customs lane dedicated to Global Entry members (and aircrew) is no longer there. Everyone is now funneled through the same lane.
I’m not sure if this is a permanent move or if this is just an intermediate step as TBIT slowly gets back to some kind of normality as passenger numbers grow and it will be interesting to see anything changes again when the US reopens to vaccinated Europeans from 8 November.
The US CBP webpage doesn’t list expedited Customs clearance as a benefit of Global Entry and as I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve never noticed if LAX was the only US airport with a dedicated Global Entry line for customs clearance, so I have no idea if the change at LAX represents the removal of a stated benefit, a removal of an unpublished benefit, or if LAX was just “special” and has just been brought into line with everywhere else.
Obviously, I’m hoping that the change is temporary and that TBIT will get its Global Entry Customs lane back when international travelers start arriving in greater numbers, but with the new Global Entry machines no longer providing a receipt which would indicate to a Customs official that the person carrying it has Global Entry, I’m a little concerned that this may be a permanent state of affairs.
If it is, the journey time from aircraft to sidewalk at TBIT will be significantly longer during busier time than it has been in the past, and that will be a little disappointing.
Do any other US airports have Global Entry lines for customs clearance? Are they still there? Has anyone else noticed the new Global Entry machines?