When people say, “9/11 changed everything,” one thing that comes to mind is airport security. Pre-9/11, you didn’t need identification that exactly matched your ticket, you weren’t at risk of up-close-and-personal pat-downs, and you could bring your own beverages through security, among other liberties. Post-9/11, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) instituted heightened safety precautions that created longer check-in lines. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get through airport security (relatively) quickly without posing a threat to anyone:
- Know the luggage rules. There are a wide range of items that are banned on flights and items that are allowed in checked baggage but prohibited in carry-on bags. Carrying banned items onboard is a great way to derail your trip before it starts, regardless of your celebrity or political standing.
- Follow the 3-1-1 rule. The 3-1-1 (well, 3.4-1-1) rule refers to how much liquid you can tote in carry-on baggage. You’re allowed to stuff as many 3.4-ounce (100ml) bottles as you can fit into 1 single 1-quart, clear-plastic, zip-locked bag. (There are exemptions for liquid medicines and baby needs, but you’ll have to declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint.) Make sure you know what qualifies as a liquid and how big your bottles are, lest the 3-1-1 rule bog you down.
- Pack only a carry-on bag. Some airports, including JFK and LAX, require passengers to accompany their checked luggage through an extra screening process.
- Scout security lines. Avoid the longest one, obviously, but keep an eye on TSA personnel to see which line is moving the most efficiently — and to make sure you won’t be part of a training exercise.
- Keep your documents handy. To get through security, you’ll need to show a photo ID that matches the name shown on your airline ticket. Make sure these items are readily available before you reach the TSA agent.
- Dress for success. You’ll have to strip down during check-in, specifically removing your shoes, metal belt buckles, coats or jackets, jewelry, and anything else that might set off alarms. Dress lightly, and wear slip-on shoes. While you’re in line, transfer your jewelry, watches, keys, and other items in your pockets to your carry-on bag so you’re ready once you reach the front of the line.
- Join the program(s). Not only can frequent-flyer programs help members get through security faster, the TSA is partnering with several such airline programs to create TSA Pre-Check. Expected to launch this fall, TSA Pre-Check will offer certain travelers an expedited security process at participating airports.
- Be nice. One sure way to qualify for additional security-line scrutiny is to make threats or otherwise act obnoxiously. Try to treat TSA agents with the same respect you’d like to receive at your office.
Unfortunately, extended security lines are an established part of air travel these days. Fortunately, Travel Plus can help take the sting out of long waits by offering members savings on airport services, pre- and post-check-in. Happy trails!