# 8 Flying Ease (Fall 2013)

Experienced, but not necessarily savvy travelers, I thought I'd pass along a few travel-comfort tricks we learned this year.

Economy Comfort Seats
We upgraded to Economy Comfort seats for our round trip Portland-Amsterdam-Portland flights with Delta in 2013 and it was worth the price. The seats are advertised as giving you up to 4 more inches of leg room but no extra width. We were clueless as to how much more legroom we had but whatever it was, it was enough to make a difference. On long haul international flights the upgrade is also supposed to deliver up to 50% more recline, which again was impossible to quantify, but whatever it was was enough to feel be more comfortable. With the upgrade, we also received Priority Boarding, which meant we were in the last batch to board before the economy free-for-all. Surprisingly, it too was enough of an improvement to notice. We were in one of the last rows in the priority boarding so weren't being jostled by the throng while we stowed our carry-on and got settled, which made the whole boarding process feel more dignified. We also noticed that on both flights we were far from the babies. The forward economy class bulkhead was included in the Economy Comfort seat section but the bassinets were on the rear bulkhead for both flights, though that may not always be the case.

Purportedly prices for the comfort seat upgrades start as low as $9 and seats are available on all two-class cabin aircraft worldwide. I can imagine that one seat a year is upgraded for $9. We paid about $60 per person per flight for the upgrade, or an extra $240 total roundtrip for 2. It's a chunk of money but for 10+ hour flights, the rate of $6/hr/person felt like a bargain when sitting in them. We'll do it again though haven't established what our top price for the upgrade will be. Interesting, the upgrade was the same price when we booked the seats months in advance and at check-in on the way home; about 4 upgraded seats were unfilled on the return flight.

Global Entry
At the time of writing, we are in the process of applying for Global Entry. Here's the scoop copied from the www.globalentry.gov website:

"Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Though intended for frequent international travelers, there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify for the program. Participants may enter the United States by using automated kiosks located at select airports.

At airports, program participants proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.

Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and interview before enrollment.

While Global Entry's goal is to speed travelers through the process, members may be selected for further examination when entering the United States. Any violation of the program's terms and conditions will result in appropriate enforcement action and revocation of the traveler's membership privileges."

Applying for the program requires payment of a non-refundable, $100 fee and a prolonged bout of patience to complete the online form. The form-filling was quite tedious for us because of the clumsy method they had for listing all of the countries we'd visited in the previous 5 years. The good news was that when we both were unceremoniously bounced out of the system, our entered information was retained and we were able to resume where we left off.

We were notified 2 business days after submitting the online form that we were conditionally approved and could proceed to make an appointment for an interview. The first interview slots were available at PDX more than 2 months out, though I snared a presumed cancellation about 7 weeks out. Bill scheduled his appointment at an enrollment center in Las Vegas rather than linger in Portland an additional 2 weeks past our planned departure date for an appointment but subsequently picked up a cancellation for PDX. We assume the interview will be perfunctory at this point.

Perhaps a bit extravagant, but we've been looking for ways to make our international travel more pleasant without paying the considerable premium for Business Class seats. And as we stood in line at PDX on our return from Amsterdam, Global Entry looked mighty good. Even though our Economy Comfort seats allowed us to dart to customs ahead of the pack, we were in a significant line when there were a total of 6 people standing around the 2 Global Entry kiosks. Given we always check baggage, we'll still be out the door about the same time but we won't be confined to a queue while the bags are off-loaded.

TSA PreCheck
Acquiring Global entry membership then makes us eligible to pay more money and apply for TSA Pre, which speeds things up at the other end, when leaving the country. The www.tsa.gov website says it will do the following for us:

"TSA Pre™ is a pre-screening initiative that makes risk assessments on passengers who voluntarily participate prior to their arrival at the airport checkpoint.

TSA Pre™ includes U.S. citizens who are select frequent travelers of participating airlines or members of existing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs including Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI programs. As of November 15, 2012, Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS are also qualified to participate in TSA Pre™. In addition, passengers 12 and younger are allowed through TSA Pre™ lanes with eligible passengers.

Eligible participants use dedicated TSA Pre™ lanes at participating airports for screening benefits which could include no longer removing the following items:

3-1-1 compliant bag from carry-on
Laptop from bag
Light outerwear/jacket
If TSA determines a passenger is eligible for expedited screening, information is embedded in the barcode of the passenger’s boarding pass. TSA scans the barcode at designated checkpoints and the passenger may be able to receive expedited screening."

We are also hoping that by participating in these programs that we'll "get the nod" when we don't even know it and that our overall airport experience will just be better.