Global Entry program to speed customs at airport

Frequent international travelers will soon have the option of bypassing customs and passport control lines at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, provided they pay $100 and pass a background check to join the federal government's Global Entry program.

Customs and Border Protection officials outlined the plan Thursday morning at the Airport Advisory Committee meeting, and said they expect it to be operational by mid-March. Global Entry already has been piloted in 20 airports, and is now being rolled out more widely.

Here's how it works: Travelers will pay a nonrefundable $100 application fee and apply online at, submitting to a background check. Those who have never been convicted of a criminal offense in any country, haven't violated customs, immigration or agricultural laws and aren't the subject of any current investigations are eligible.

Applicants will then be interviewed in person by an agent at a Global Entry Enrollment Center, one of which will open in Charlotte Douglas soon. After providing fingerprints and being photographed, they'll be enrolled in the program for five years.

When entering the U.S. at Charlotte Douglas, travelers enrolled in Global Entry can skip the lines at passport control, which can range from 30 minutes to an hour, officials said. Instead of waiting in line, they can swipe their passport at a kiosk, answer questions about any goods they're declaring, and be on their way.

The program will allow trusted and frequent travelers to save time, and allow CBP agents to focus on travelers who might be a higher risk. An ongoing expansion of the terminal and international arrivals, which is expected to be completed this summer, also will help speed entry into the U.S., officials said.

Food, beverage expansion

Also Thursday, the Airport Advisory Committee approved a plan to spend just under $500,000 to expand the E Concourse by 2,700 feet. That's near the Speedway Grill and Fox Sports Bar. HMS Host, the company that oversees food and beverage contracts for the airport, will spend $3.8 million to upgrade the space and install a new restaurant and bar called 1897 Market.

The $500,000 expansion will be paid for with revenue from HMS Host's rent payments to the airport. It's estimated that 1897 Market will generate about $12 million in annual sales.

Rail yard construction soon

Norfolk Southern plans to start construction on a new rail yard at the airport this month, airport officials said. The "intermodal yard" will feature easy switching among rail, truck and air freight, officials say.

The new rail yard will replace the current Norfolk Southern facility on North Brevard Street, just north of uptown. Construction is expected to start Feb. 13.

The $90 million facility will be near the airport's recently completed new runway, on the airport's south side. Charlotte Douglas is leasing the land to Norfolk Southern, and the rail company will pick up the construction tab. The city of Charlotte will pay Piedmont Natural Gas $1.6 million from the airport fund to relocate gas pipelines on the site.