Experienced travelers know that long lines at airports will cause them to miss their flights. Arriving in plenty of time to get through security is the easiest answer, but not always possible due to business needs and traffic.
Preparing to Fly
Airlines recommend arriving at the airport 90 minutes before a domestic flight, and two hours before an international flight. Before arriving leaving for the airport:
- Check in online – printing your ticket from home, a hotel or the office saves time standing in line.
- Pack as light as possible, fitting as much into one bag as possible. The bag should fit into overhead bins on the airplane, in order to avoid checking the bag.
- Make sure the carry-on items will pass security. Currently, that means no liquids in containers greater than 3 ounces, as well as knives and other sharp instruments.
- Buy a Transportation Security Administration approved lock for the suitcase. If it has to be checked, TSA can open it without damaging it or the suitcase.
- Carry as little metal on your person as possible. Limit cufflinks, watches and other jewelry have to be taken off and run through the baggage check.
- Wearing a belt without a metal buckle will help to speed things through. The metal wrapper on chewing gum will set off the metal detector, so keep that in the carry-on that will be scanned.
- Shoes have to be taken off and put on the belt, so consider slip-ons, or something that goes on and off easily.
Saving Time at the Airport
Most airlines have frequent flyer programs that have a separate check-in and baggage check area. Some airports allow program members to access different (and usually shorter) security lines, or at least allow members to move toward the front of the line.
Skycaps can also handle checked baggage, and the lines are shorter, although tipping is expected. .
Once you have entered the security area, an agent will compare your identity card (driver’s license or passport) with the flight ticket. Keep these items out and available until you are past this point.
Once verified, put these items away. This is a good time to put other items that will need to go through the scanner. One idea is to put them in a carry-on or purse pocket so they can be retrieved easily. Otherwise, it will be necessary to put them in a bin and it will be necessary to fumble with them before and after scanning.
When choosing a security line, do not necessarily choose the closest one, since this is where most people, particularly inexperienced travelers, will be drawn.
Airline personnel are given preference over travelers, so choose the line farthest from where they would access, and from wheelchair areas, which are also given preference.
Laptops need to be removed their cases, (unless it is a specific approved case) and placed in the bin by itself. Jackets must be removed and sent through the scanner.
It is best not to engage in unnecessary conversation with the agents, which will distract them and make it slower for everyone. Certainly avoid any attempts at humor about security, which might mean a much longer detainment.
Once through, gather items and move quickly away from the security area. A well planned, efficient trip through security will increase everyone’s satisfaction and help make for safer air travel.