Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Speeding Through Airport Security

There is a scene in the movie, Up in the Air, where George Clooney’s character shares his secrets for getting through airport security lines at top speed. His primary piece of advice is to avoid getting in line behind families with strollers and to try to get in line behind businessmen. That’s pretty solid advice but there are more simple tricks that will help you just as much.

A speedy trip through security begins before you even leave home. In fact, it begins before you pack or dress to head out the door.
When you check-in for your flight (presumably on your phone or on-line at home, 24 hours in advance) take a moment to head on over to the TSA site and make sure that you know the security screening rules. They do change occasionally. While you’re checking in, also make sure that the name on your boarding pass matches the one on the ID you will present at the security gate.

While you’re looking at your boarding pass confirming that your name is right, look up in the corner of it and see if you have a green check mark and the words “TSA pre-approved” printed there. Regardless of whether you have enrolled in the program, sometimes you will get that privilege for free and without asking. If that lovely green mark and those precious words appear, you have the right to go through the pre-checked line, meaning that you won’t have to take off your shoes and you won’t have to pull out your Ziploc. You can also enroll in the program for a fee but it must be done well in advance of your trip.

Next let’s talk about packing. Whether you travel strictly carry-on or prefer to check your bags is a matter of personal choice. Just keep in mind that the less you carry through security, the less you will have to have screened. If you are checking a bag¸ put nearly everything except for in-flight essentials, valuables and one change of clothing in your checked bag, leaving your carry-on and personal item (purse, briefcase, etc.) as light as possible.

Next, check your carry-on items for contraband. It’s easy to overlook little things like pocketknives, corkscrews, etc., that might have been left in the bag after your last adventure. Ladies, check your purse for lip gloss, nail polish and pointy nail files that will not be allowed through security.

Now that you have cleaned out the banned items, it is time to pack according to TSA guidelines. Make sure that all of your liquids are in bottles no bigger than 3.4 ounces and then put all of those bottles into one quart-sized Ziploc bag. As you pack, put your bag of liquids near the top of your carry-on or in an outside pocket that is easily accessed. You will be required to take out that bag when you go through security and you won’t want to waste time digging for it while in line. The same goes for your electronics. Some airports want even your phones and Kindles pulled out now, so prepare accordingly.

When it’s time to get dressed to go, think about the things that you will have to take off at the airport. Wear shoes that are easy to slip in and out of. You will be asked to take your watch off so why even put it on before you go? I slip mine in my purse and keep it there until I am past the security line. Belts must come off, too. Try to avoid wearing one, if you can.

Before you walk out the door, take a minute or two to look at the airport terminal map on-line. You may find that some airports have multiple security areas to choose from. For example, my home airport is Indianapolis. There are two terminals, A and B, and they each have their own security areas. However, you do not have to use the security line for the terminal you are departing from. You can go through either one. Just past security, there is a short public walkway that connects the two terminals. If B is backed up, I simply turn and go through A. Taking an alternate route can be a major time saver.

While you’re looking at the terminal maps, review the suggested arrival time. The general guidelines are to arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours prior to an international flight. However, some airport sites recommend arriving even earlier depending on how busy the airport may be.

When you reach the first security checkpoint, have your ID and your boarding pass ready to present. Once you get past that first point, if you are wearing a jacket, go ahead and take it off while you wait. Dig out that Ziploc bag and your electronics, too.

One you near the bins and the moving belts, stop chatting with your fellow travelers and listen to what the TSA agents are saying. They will give you helpful instructions and will often direct you to the fastest moving line. If you have a choice of lines, pick a line where the more experienced travelers with less baggage appear to be.

When you finally reach the bins, grab two and start filling them. I like to put my shoes, my Ziploc and my purse into the first bin. In the next bin, I put my coat and electronics. Some locations want your electronics in a bin with nothing else, so your coat may have to go in a separate bin. Don’t forget to check your pockets. Nothing can be in your pockets when you go through the screener.

When it is your turn to put your things on the belt, I suggest putting your carry-on on the belt first. It does not have to go in a bin. I put the bin with my purse on the belt next and then the electronics bin at the end. The agents will ask you to make sure that your last item has gone to the scanner before you step into the metal detector.

Once you’ve been cleared, grab your items as quickly as possible and move to the benches just past security to get yourself pulled back together. Do not block the line behind you by putting things back on while standing in front of the moving belt.

Again, listen carefully to the TSA agents, do what they tell you and do not argue. You absolutely will not win.

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