A trusted traveler program that doesn’t trust, first flight with WiFi, from 19 degrees to 80 degrees F
Tonight, we’re sitting at the G-Bar on the Marina at the Hilton in Fort Lauderdale. This is a fancy wood deck outdoor bar that is their version of the beloved Florida Tiki bar (my favorite is still at Grills in Port Canaveral). We had a nice, casual dinner of Cuban pressed sandwiches and are enjoying some drinks in the pleasant, warm evening air.
We drove out to DIA this morning with no issues, even though there was a dusting of snow and frigid temperatures, along with fog in some areas. We found a close parking spot in the West Garage, the lines for checking our bags at United were short and we proceeded to the south screening area. Now, a little side story (perhaps better termed a mini-rant): Earlier this year, we decided to apply for the Global Entry program through CBP (Customs and Border Protection); this “trusted traveler” program is primarily used to dramatically speed up your re-entry into the US after returning from a foreign country. The Global Entry kiosks in many major airports bypass passport inspection lines and the need to fill out that pesky immigration form on the plane as you also struggle to find your shoes and pack away all of the stuff you hauled out for the long flight. The classic old US grey-and blue immigration form requested that you describe all of your adventures in other countries (“Have you been on a working farm or ranch? “Do you have any agricultural products or food?”) and you also had to estimate how much you spent on refrigerator magnets, cheesy t–shirts, and uncut diamonds and rare gemstones. The Global Entry program required detailed application forms, extensive background checks, and in-person interviews at the CBP office at DIA, plus $100 each for multiple years. One of the advertised side benefits was that Global Entry included TSA Pre-Check, which avoids many of the hassles of normal screening (no shoe removal, no jacket removal, shorter lines, no removal of laptops from bags, etc.). We eagerly awaited our first experience with TSA Pre-Check today. The line was short, but moving rather slowly. We finally reached the kiosk and the stunningly bright young man fumbling around at the entry point said that Steve was cleared for Pre-Check, but I wasn’t. Hmmmmm – so apparently there was “fine print” to this after all; in spite of the background checks and fees and interviews other gates that we had to go to get the cards, you are apparently never guaranteed TSA pre-check privileges or Global Entry privileges and they can randomly refuse the expedited service. So we had to do the regular screening anyway (we didn’t split up). Thanks goodness the lines were short. Yup, that’s our blessed government – they create a program to allegedly speed up these processes and identify “trusted travelers” and right out of the chute, it is denied for me on the first try. God love ’em…a trusted traveler program that doesn’t trust you! Steve can kind of see the point behind the random checks but I was disappointed that I had no new experience on the first try.
So, after finally getting through security we had breakfast at Pour Le France, right by our gate on Concourse B. Very slow service, but good food. Our flight left slightly late (it came in from Reno); by the time we left, there was no need for any de-icing. We had aisle seats across from each other in Economy Plus, having used miles to book our flights back in February when we decided to book our cruise on Oasis. There were new seats on this A320 that were quite comfortable (good lumbar support) and we had another pleasant surprise – WiFi! United charges $8.99 for this service and we both signed up and had pretty fast service all the way to Ft. Lauderdale. This really kills the time on a flight. We noticed there is no in-flight entertainment system; apparently they are investigating streaming content for future flights, since most travelers have some type of gizmo that could show movies, etc. Of course, the flight was full.
We took a cab to the hotel, which is north of the cruise ship basin located at Port Everglades. Our room on the ninth floor looks out at the intracoastal waterway and we can see the hotels along the beach and the inland downtown district. And here we sit at the Tiki bar, where this thread started, enjoying the warm air and soaking in all of that great humidity into our starved pores from living in bone-dry Colorado. Tomorrow, we have a leisurely breakfast, then take the hotel transfer to the dock at noon. I will have more from from the Behemoth (aka Oasis) of the Seas on the first day of winter.