Without a doubt, airport security tops the list of passenger complaints. It's hard to know who will enter the terminal on time and unscathed and who will be subjected to a full body search. So what exactly can people do to ease their passage through the security checkpoint?
Next to politics and religion, travel is one of the most divisive subjects known to man; some wish they could live forever in airports, while others suffer panic attacks at the mere thought. Unfortunately, the experience of traveling can be highly unpredictable, leading to a wide variety of outcomes on otherwise identical days. There are so many things that can go wrong: personal property may be lost, flights can be delayed and baggage might go missing. Without a doubt, airport security tops the list of passenger complaints. It's hard to know who will enter the terminal on time and unscathed and who will be subjected to a full body search. So what exactly can people do to ease their passage through the security checkpoint?
Allow sufficient time for security. Many people leave home within an hour of their flight; they will be left behind. On its worst days, security is notoriously time-consuming. It’s important to be flexible should the unexpected occur. Being in a massive rush at the X-ray machine isn’t going to help anyone.
Each passenger is allowed to bring a 1 quart bag filled with little 3 ounce bottles. That's it. Baby milk and medication are acceptable, but they have to be declared ahead of time. This means water bottles won’t be permitted, although new ones can be purchased inside the terminal.
What will a TSA X-ray worker think when he sees a carry-on bag brimming with tangled up wires? He certainly won’t assume it’s a PlayStation 3. Carry-on luggage should be organized meticulously to avoid the possibility of a longer search. Extra time spent packing correctly pays off in time saved at the airport.
Airport security hasn't always required passengers to remove their shoes; thank “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid for this particular inconvenience. Bring walking shoes that can be easily taken on and off, such as slip-ons. Also, please wear a clean pair of socks while passing through security, airports smell strange enough as it is.
TSA personnel will request boarding passes and passports, so have those documents ready because there’s nothing worse than fumbling around for them. That’ll just hold up the line, and annoy the very people nobody should ever want to annoy. If possible, purchase carry-on that includes a special pouch exclusively for paperwork.
It’s airport security; there will be metal detectors. Loose change will set them off. Watches will set them off. Jewelry will set them off. iPhones will set them off. It’s impossible to describe how many people waste time at the metal detector because they didn’t know their golden belt buckle would be problematic. Simple rule of thumb: If it’s metallic, put it in the bin. This includes laptops and tablets.
There’s a good chance the security terminal will have different lines. While intuition may say to get into the shortest one, this is often wrong. Many airports have different options for expert and casual passengers. The longer line may be for business travelers, and it will move much faster than the short one full of unruly teenagers.
Many passengers qualify for PreCheck, an option for faster security processing. PreCheck does not require removing shoes and laptops, or waiting in long lines an hour before takeoff. In addition, the TSA site offers a helpful guide titled “What to Know Before You Go,” detailing prohibited items and acceptable procedures. Perusing it before the big day is an excellent idea; knowledge is power after all.
The security area is not overly spacious. At any given moment there are dozens of passengers trying to get through as quickly as possible, and at least a dozen TSA workers processing them with equal urgency. The last thing anyone needs is people taking forever to put their shoes back on.
Nothing is certain when it comes to airport travel. Following these guidelines won't help if a severe weather event grounds all available flights, or if luggage meant for Chicago ends up in Barcelona. Thankfully, educated travelers do enjoy an advantage when it comes to airport security. A little forethought before meeting with TSA personnel can make all the difference in the world.