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Get through customs faster; Spirit Airlines to charge for carry-ons, teach in Korea

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fast-track customs

It could be the end of the line at customs in Amsterdam.

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For a select time, members of Global Entry, the two-year-old program that allows returning Americans to bypass U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents for a speedy kiosk, can join the counterpart program in the Netherlands -- without having to leave U.S. soil. Previously, Americans could apply for it only in the Netherlands.

Four domestic airports are offering enrollment: Washington Dulles and Houston (through April 23) and Newark and Chicago O'Hare (April 26-May 14). Once cleared, you are free to head to the kiosk at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, saving substantial time. Cost is about $321; online application and interview required.

In addition to Amsterdam, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Joanne Ferreira says the agency has signed an agreement with the United Kingdom and is "in conversations with other countries," such as Japan and Germany. To apply to Global Entry: http://www.globalentry.gov. For the Netherlands program: http://https://www.flux-alliance.eu.

Carrying on

Think you can save money by carrying your luggage onboard rather than checking it in? If you're flying on Spirit Airlines, think again.

Come Aug. 1, Spirit will charge passengers on domestic and international flights $30 for each carry-on bag -- whether you pay online or at check-in. If you show up at the gate with a carry-on bag, you'll pay even more: $45.

Members of the $9 Fare Club, Spirit's membership club, will get a bit of a break. The price tag if you register carry-on bags in advance is $20.

The charges apply only to bags placed in overhead bins. Personal items, such as purses, will incur no charge if they fit beneath the seat.

So far, no other airline charges for carry-on bags. It's more common for airlines to charge for checked bags, and many have been increasing those fees in recent months.

Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said the new fees will allow the airline to lower fares; on average, the airline has reduced its lowest fare by more than $40 each way. "You're not really paying any more with this new change," she said.

Say what? "I think that this move by Spirit may cross the line for American travelers who are already near the breaking point due to rising checked baggage fees," said Jami Counter, senior director of TripAdvisor Flights.

Spirit's chief operating officer, Ken McKenzie, said in a statement that in addition to lowering fares, the fees will also reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve safety and will speed up the boarding and deplaning process. "Bring less; pay less," he said. "It's simple."


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