How Global Entry saved me $570 when I arrived late at the airport

Sep 12, 2021

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Often when we write about Global Entry, it’s to highlight the fact that it comes with a free membership to the super helpful TSA PreCheck program, which gives you the privilege of passing through airport security without stripping down to your knickers. You can wear your shoes, belt and light jacket through the metal detector. You don’t even have to remove your laptop or small toiletries from your carry-on.

But Global Entry is extremely useful in its own right. Its primary feature is that it allows you to skip the giant immigration line when you return to the U.S. from overseas. But it serves another purpose, as well — and it saved me hundreds of dollars (potentially over $1,000) during my trip to Abu Dhabi.

As a reminder, you can receive a five-year Global Entry membership (up to a $100 statement credit) if you pay with one of these cards:

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Global Entry saved me from missing my transatlantic flight

After a few days of exploring Dubai, I was unbelievably late arriving at the Abu Dhabi airport for my flight home. So late, in fact, that when I approached the check-in counter to request my boarding pass, the airline agent actually laughed out loud. The flight was scheduled to take off in about an hour. While that might sound like a reckless but manageable amount of time to catch an international flight from a U.S. airport, it’s largely a no-no in other countries.

On top of that, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has added a feature at the Abu Dhabi airport called Preclearance.

I did not know this.

Preclearance basically means you go through all the customs and immigration processes at your departure airport instead of your arrival airport. That extra step practically guaranteed I’d need to buy a new plane ticket home.

The most painful blow landed when they informed me I had been upgraded to business class.

This exact seat retailed at over $5,500 one-way. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

Out of desperation, I mentioned that I was enrolled in Global Entry. The desk agent’s demeanor sobered. He quickly placed a phone call to see if I had time to make the flight as a Global Entry member. After a few agonizing minutes of waiting for an update on my flight status, the agent printed my boarding pass, pointed the way to a Global Entry kiosk and told me to run to the gate. I distinctly remember my feet never touching the ground.

Pricing tickets from Abu Dhabi to the U.S. after the fact, Global Entry saved me around $570. That’s the price of a coach flight for my route — a business-class ticket would cost significantly more, so I’m elated I didn’t squander the upgrade.

Which airports offer Preclearance?

Global Entry will be of great help to you if you’re flying from just about anywhere back to the U.S. But it’s extra handy when you need to arrive at the airport early in a foreign country due to Preclearance. Here’s where you’ll find U.S. Preclearance:

Canada

  • Calgary (YYC).
  • Edmonton (YEG).
  • Halifax (YHZ).
  • Montreal (YUL).
  • Ottawa (YOW).
  • Toronto (YYZ).
  • Vancouver (YVR).
  • Winnipeg (YWG).

Caribbean

  • Aruba (AUA).
  • Bermuda (BDA).
  • Bahamas: Freeport (FPO), Nassau (NAS).

Other

  • Abu Dhabi (AUH).
  • Dublin (DUB).
  • Shannon (SNN).

Bottom line

U.S. Preclearance is slowly being added in other countries, and will eventually make Global Entry even more useful. Once it expands to more airports, travelers will be able to use the program and bypass customs or TSA security inspections when arriving in the U.S.

Featured photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy.

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