By Bob Nesoff
Traveling under the new rules, even though the pandemic appears to be on the wane, can be challenging. But there are steps you can take to get the bite out of it.
I recently did a round trip to California for a meeting (more on that at the end) in Los Angeles. The flight required a plane change in Houston that could have been avoided with a bit more investigation on my part. But passing through the airport was eased somewhat because I carry a Global Entry card.
While that card was originally designed to speed U.S. citizens returning from a foreign destination, it has taken on new meaning today. With that card you automatically also receive TSA Pre-Check. That allows you to go through security without removing jackets, shoes/boots and such. There is also a dedicated line for Pre-Check that will speed you along while others trudge through long lines.
The Global Entry card, as does Pre-Check, costs $100 for five years and requires a personal visit to an application point at designated airports. A bit of a hassle, but it’s only one time as you can renew on-line. Check with your credit card issuer as many of them will reimburse you for that cost.
Airline credit cards for some lines also provide day passes for their lounges. The only drawback here o that if the lounge is busy, day passes are not honored. There is a way around that, but it costs more. Chase/United Airlines offers a “Club Card,” considered a “Black Cad” that is quite prestigious. Not cheap, but if you fly often, well worth it. The cost is just south of $600 annually.
The card grands access, no matter how busy the club, to 40 United Airline clubs in the U.S. as well as Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Mexico City and Tokyo Narita. But there is more. They are part of the international Star Alliance that includes quite a number of foreign airlines such as Lufthansa. You have access to the club’s lounges of those airlines.
With the pandemic the offerings in the clubs has been limited, but the comfort of sitting there while waiting for a flight is immeasurable. When the pandemic is under control and they fully reopen, there are usually fully stocked assortments of food. Drinks, alcohol included, are available now. And that is as no charge.
On my way back from LA there was a long wait. A very long wait. Sitting in comfortable chairs in the club, having a snack and a drink made that card very worthwhile. The card also increases considerably the number of points/miles you receive when charging the trip to the card. And you would be pleasantly amazed at the attention you receive when personnel see that card.
For those of you renting cars at your destination, be aware that there is a severe shortage of available vehicles…even with a confirmed reservation. A reservation works in favor of the companies, not you. They are running out of vehicles at a record pace and they really don’t care much that you will have no transportation.
When the pandemic lasted longer than anyone thought, the rental companies began cutting personnel and selling off rolling stock. They are now in the process of on obtaining additional vehicles and rehiring. Butt hat will take a while. What can you do? Reserve as far in advance as possible and hope that when you arrive, there is stock in inventory.
The reason for my trip to LA is a personal best. Some time back I wrote an action novel, Spyder Hole, that was compared by some reviewers to Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn. A friend gave a copy to a movie producer and they asked to meet with me. Hence the trip to Los Angeles. The bottom line…they bought the rights to make a movie and are now discussing leading actors and screen writers. So, in my case it makes sense to have the Black Card but you will have to think hard and see if it is cost effective for you.