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Bags First

Many posters have reported that when arriving at SeaTac airport they collect their bags before going to immigration and customs. This is different from the current procedure at most arriving US airports.

Seatac is one of 3 airports that is testing a program called Bags First. CPB wants to see if this way will save time by allowing arriving passengers to speak to one person for both immigration and customs.

San Diego in Orlando are the other two airports.

Posted by
6469 posts

This worked well for me returning from Mexico last winter. The new facility is much bigger and easier to use. Of course I have no experience connecting to other flights at SEA.

Posted by
23223 posts

That certainly would reward carry-on. You would be first in line for immigration and customs. I could see that as providing a small advantage.

Posted by
13869 posts

Doing carry on only transiting thru Seattle works well because you do get ahead of those waiting for bags even in the GE lane. The only issue is wrestling a bag on the loooong escalators up and over from the South docking area.

Hopefully I won’t get the jerk Border agent next time. I had him when he was just the Customs guy but last entry thru Seattle had him for the combo Immigration/Customs.

Posted by
8315 posts

I don’t see this as much of a test program. When they built the new international terminal in Seattle, it was purposely built so bags came before passport control. There won’t be any end to this “test”

Posted by
1991 posts

Pam--That is so true, that long walk between the gates and baggage for international. That escalator! I can't think about it as I get dizzy. Even carrying my carryon and daypack the other week was not pleasant on that thing.

Posted by
14904 posts

It's a test program to see how it works and whether they want to expand it to other airports when they either remodel or build new facilities.

The airports currently using it will continue to use it. But if the results aren't good, it may not be expanded to other airports. (CPB hopes it will reduce wait times by 40%.)

That's why it's a test program.

Posted by
4506 posts

Noting that the previous procedure at SEA was not the usual USA procedure with the bag drop for connecting flights, and it appears that now everyone with a US passport gets global entry? No talking to an officer, everyone uses the facial recognition bypass procedure.

Noting that about 10 years ago I ran into the combined immigration/customs process at DFW. After collecting bags, then had the interview.

Posted by
1991 posts

Tom--I am unsure of what you are asking regarding Global Entry. You still have to apply and have an interview. I just renewed mine and did not need an interview for that though. Our kids do not have it, yet have passports and travel often. They have Pre, but not GE, so when we travel together we go to separate lines when we arrive home at SEA.

Posted by
7202 posts

Every time I see that SeaTac walkway in the sky, it gives me the dizzy anxiety just thinking of having to take that escalator! Is there an alternate elevator, or should I avoid coming back through SeaTac for future trips? I saw it again yesterday flying back during a domestic trip. I would seriously need a tranquilizer gun & be carried up that escalator.

Posted by
11123 posts

Every time I see that SeaTac walkway in the sky, it gives me the dizzy anxiety just thinking of having to take that escalator!

Perhaps pretend it is the escalator to the Nordie's half price floor?

There has to be an elevator somewhere.

Posted by
4506 posts

I am unsure of what you are asking regarding Global Entry. You still have to apply and have an interview.

Well, what Global Entry gives you is access to the facial recognition machine, and every else goes to an immigration officer. With this process everyone has access to the facial recognition machines, so there is apparently no difference with waiting or treatment anymore, Global Entry vs no Global Entry.

Posted by
14904 posts

Tom...have you gone through the Bags First program at one of the four participating airports?

And no one saw an immigration officer? Everyone just stopped at a machine and then continued on?

Posted by
7202 posts

@Joe32f, I haven’t ever been to Nordstrom’s half-price floor. ; ) But, if they offered free shopping at SeaTac’s skywalk, I still wouldn’t go there.

Posted by
8315 posts

Skywalk just isn’t that hard to manage at SeaTac. It is no longer than the walk at Heathrow, and there are elevators if you don’t like escalators.

Posted by
357 posts

We were planning to try to get a global entry interview on arrival back in Seattle this fall. Does anyone have experience getting their global entry upon arrival in SEATAC? (even though it may not be helpful in SEATAC with the new BagsFirst progarm)

Posted by
1991 posts

Tom--At SEA, the machines used to be before baggage claim. Now if you have Global you go straight to the Global line. Trust me, this is not allowed for everyone and you have to have Global. The regular lines are crazy long like at many places. I have been through this 3 times since December.

CanAmCherie--Global is still VERY useful at SEA, and I highly recommend it. I can't help regarding the interview, sorry.

Posted by
4506 posts

So the table in the link is wrong? The table lists precisely the global entry process for everyone, see #4, (no waiting to talk to an officer). So the table is wrong and that is not the Bags First process, and there is still a long queue to talk to an officer?

Posted by
14904 posts

The table is wrong. It left out a step....talking to an officer.

Posted by
357 posts

Thanks, we will definitely plan to do the Global Entry interview (providing our flight from LHR is not too delayed) prior to our connection to our local airport in Pasco.

Posted by
484 posts

Having experienced this procedure at Orlando last month I can say that to me its a waste of time.
It took a very long time for the bags to get to the terminal carousel (always the case in Orlando), and then after waiting to get my bag there was still the Immigration/Customs part to go through. By that time everyone was getting their bags so the line for Immigration/Customs was very long - more waiting.
The waiting time for the bags could've been better used doing Immigration and get that out of the way. Just my opinion.