Achingly slow airport security lines are in the news for a good reason. Summer travel is ramping up, TSA is short-staffed, more people than ever are boarding planes. There’s not much you can do about the airport mess but there’s a lot you can do to make sure you aren’t part of the problem.
- Be early. Don’t take the admonishment to get to the airport well ahead of your flight lightly. An hour before departure is barely enough in some airports and two hours is a good idea. If lines are moving at glacier speed, you’ll be glad you have time to spare. According to The Active Times, the worst airports for slow security screening are JFK, Newark, Orlando, Los Angeles and Lousiville. But that doesn’t mean you should take your small town airport for granted. Bottlenecks can happen anywhere.
- Be ready. Once you hit the front of the line, have your travel docs in your hand. The TSA screener, your new Security Fiend (typo! That should be Friend), needs to see your boarding pass and ID (driver’s license or passport). That’s all. Have them in your hand. Another hint: check the expiration date on your driver’s license and passport. If your primary form of ID has expired, you are in deep do-do.
- Be nice. Smile at your Security Friend and say hi. It can’t hurt to be nice to people who have one of the world’s most belabored jobs. And fer cryin’ out loud, take your sunglasses off. Your Security Friend needs to see you whole face and you’ll just annoy him/her if they have to remind you to remove your sunglasses. You never want to annoy your Security Friend.
- Know the rules. TSA screeners report thousands of utterly clueless people wander up to the luggage inspection line, plop their bags on the table, don’t take liquids and laptops out of their carry-ons, and don’t remove their belts, shoes and jackets. Immediate bottlenecks occur as those folks unpack and remove what they’re supposed to.
- Wear slip on/off shoes. Nothing slows you down and frustrates everybody in line behind you more than waiting while you balance on one foot or crouch down and untie your shoes. There are better ways to make you way through TSA security and they are called loafers, flats, flip flops, slip-ons.
- Toiletries. If they are in your carry-on bag and not your checked suitcase, containers must be regulation size (less than 3.4 ounces) and stowed all together in one clear quart-sized plastic bag. A Zip-lock bag will do or but you might want to spring for something sturdier with a zipper, find it at the drug store. Do not ever try to smuggle something oversized or questionable in the bottom of your carry-on. Your Security Friend will just find it and you and your bag will get searched and frisked like you’re a potential terrorist.
- Gifts. That lovely bottle of wine you want to give your friends at the other end? You cannot carry it on board. Don’t carry-on anything that’s on the no-no list. And don’t plan to wrap your gift until you get to your destination or all that pretty wrapping paper will just become a bright pile of trash after TSA opens the package.
- Sure-fire line stoppers. Don’t be an idiot think you can sneak through security with a gun, knife, ammunition, aerosols, blasting caps, firecrackers, lighter fluid…the list goes on (for a complete array of no-no’s, go to https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/prohibited-items). TSA reported that in 2015, 2,653 firearms (83 percent of them loaded!) were discovered in passengers’ carry-ones. So don’t be that guy, not only will you slow your progress through security, you will be flagged as someone possibly dangerous and obviously stupid and could get hauled to the questioning room.
Or you could sign up for TSA Pre✓ See next weeks’ blog post for how-to and pros and cons.