AT HOME - Before you leave...
Before you even step out the door, make sure you’re prepared with the right clothing and the right amenities in your carry-on. Wearing your Sunday best may no longer be in vogue, but a small amount of strategy will save you time as you work your way through the long lines. Loose, simple clothing will not only make for a more comfortable flight, but it will keep you from having to peel off all of those layers at the checkpoint. Any metal decorations, such as a belt buckle or jewelry will have to be removed at the security counter. One option is to place all metal, keys and loose change is a container or plastic bag in your carry-on prior to arrival. This will help streamline your check-in process. Another key component of your wardrobe is your shoes. Plan to take them off unless you’re wearing flip-flops, otherwise a pair of slip-ons may be your best bet the next time you hit the airways.
Airport saftey officers (like TSA agents) will want a good look at anything you bring as checked baggage as well. If you choose to lock your bags, know that personnel can break the lock in order to inspect the items inside. You might avoid this by using a TSA recognized locking mechanism, which can be opened by TSA only; however, if you are traveling internationally you will still run the risk of having your locks broken for inspection purposes. A couple of rules of thumb for packing checked baggage: you may pack sporting equipment, even swords and knives, but make sure nothing is flammable or explosive. Flammable items also include alcohol, so think twice about bringing that bottle of wine back from France.
Since restrictions change often, you can check the Transportation Security Administration’s website for updates each time you travel.
Leave gifts unwrapped. They may be opened for inspection.
Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry, and accessories that contain metal. Metal items may set off the alarm on the metal detector.
Avoid excess. Carry-on baggage is limited to one carry-on bag plus one personal item. Personal items include laptops, purses, small backpacks, briefcases, or camera cases. Remember, 1+1.
Place identification tags in and on all of your baggage. Don’t forget your laptop computer.
When packing your carryon luggage, it is important to layer your items. A neat layer of clothing, electronics, more clothing, and then any heavier items makes it easier for the x-ray technician to see your items properly. If you throw everything together in one bag without separating them then even the most innocent item, like a cell phone or mp3 player, can look like a possible threat in an x-ray.
Avoid, if possible, packing larger electronic items like laptops and video cameras in your carry on. If you do plan on taking these items, you will be asked to remove them from your carry-on to be sent through the x-ray machine individually.
Pack all liquids of approved size in a 1 quart clear plastic zip top bag and be sure the lids are on correctly. Not only will these prevent spills inside your carry-on, but also helps the technician to see what liquids you are carrying.
Be prepared in case of delay by arriving early, especially if you are traveling with young children or a disabled person. Most airlines suggest arriving one to two hours before departure.
Make sure you have the right ID. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that identification be shown to get through airport security and again to board the aircraft. Government issued identification is best, such as a driver's license or military ID. Some airlines also require children to have identification, such as a birth certificate. It's best to check with your specific airline to be sure.
Avoid delays by not packing your bag too tightly, allowing personnel to easily search or x-ray it. Always keep your ID and boarding pass handy, wear shoes that can easily be taken off and be ready to show that any electronic device actually works. Don't have a computer with a dead battery.
Although the TSA has a list of federal regulations, airport security is slightly different depending on the airport and the airline. Do your research before you travel.
Gain Elite Status with your frequent flyer miles program. Elite members are granted a quicker check-in process, and are allowed to board the plane first.
AT THE AIRPORT - Getting through the screening processKeep two things with you from the time you enter the airport to the time you board your flight: a current photo ID and your boarding pass. Typically you will be asked to show both items at the security gates (sometimes more than once) and again as you board, but you could be asked to ante up at any time, so it’s best to keep them handy at all times.
Security lines can be long, especially during peak travel times such as holidays. Plan on arriving at least two hours before your flight departs. Airlines recommend arriving three hours before international departures. To help speed the process, most airlines will allow you to print your boarding pass from home so that you can proceed directly to security.
Once in the security lines, keep them moving quickly by removing coats and shoes ahead of time and placing jewelry, change and keys inside your carry-on. As you hit the front of the lines, you can anticipate an x-ray for all carry-on items and a trip through the metal detector. Also note that you could be chosen randomly for a pat-down search. This should be conducted by a screener of the same gender, and you have the option to request a private room should you require additional screening.
- Do NOT bring drinks or other liquids to the airport checkpoint unless they are approved and permissable items to fly.
- Do NOT bring food to checkpoint unless it is wrapped or in a container. Unpeeled natural foods like fruit are okay, but may be confiscated depending on the routing.
- Put all metal items in your carry-on bag. This includes jewelry, loose change, keys, mobile phones, pagers, and personal data assistants (PDAs).
- Take OUT your laptop computer. Place it in a bin, separate from its carrying case.
- Take OFF your outer coat. Place it in a bin. Suit jackets and blazers do not have to be removed, unless requested by the screener.
- Wear slip on shoes to avoid extra time spent unlacing stubborn shoes or boots.
- Remove children from car seats and strollers, and pets from carriers. The carrying devices will be scanned with the x-ray machine separately.
- Have proper ID and your boarding pass easily accessible.
- Refrain from cell phone use while at the security point. This will allow you to pay full attention to the officers’ requests and the environment around you.
Complying with airport safety guidelines can seem like an invasion of our privacy. Be sure to not act scared or nervous by security measures you are unfamiliar with. It's likely you may encounter military personnel, bomb sniffing dogs or you may even be checked for explosive residue on your clothing. Always remain calm and just know it’s part of the process.
If you happen to be chosen by airport safety personnel to step aside and received a little extra attention, don't get upset. Most of these searches are random and it does not mean you have triggered any suspicion. If you do feel unfairly singled out, visit AirSafe.com for resources on filing complaints with the Department of Transportation.
Once you have made it through the gates you can relax and grab a coffee while you wait for your flight, but remember, you can't take it (or any liquids) with you on board! REMEMBER: Security Officers have the authority to determine if an item could be used as a weapon and may not allow said item to pass through checkpoints.
Top 40 US Airports
- Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta ATL Airport
- Chicago O'Hare ORD Airport
- Dallas Fort Worth DFW Airport
- Los Angeles LAX Airport
- Las Vegas McCarran LAS Airport
- Denver DEN Airport
- Houston Intercontinental IAH Airport
- Phoenix Sky Harbor PHX Airport
- Philadelphia PHL Airport
- Charlotte Douglas CLT Airport
- Detroit Metropolitian DTW Airport
- Minneapolis-St Paul MSP Airport
- Newark Liberty EWR Airport
- Washington Dulles IAD Airport
- Boston Logan BOS Airport
- Salt Lake City SLC Airport
- La Guardia LGA Airport
- New York Kennedy JFK Airport
- Memphis MEM Airport
- Miami MIA Airport
- San Francisco SFO Airport
- Orlando MCO Airport
- Cincinnati N Kentucky CVG Airport
- Seattle Tacoma SEA Airport
- Honolulu HNL Airport
- Baltimore Washington BWI Airport
- Ted Stevens Anchorage ANC Airport
- Chicago Midway MDW Airport
- Fort Lauderdale Hollywood FLL Airport
- Lambert St Louis STL Airport
- Washington Reagan National DCA Airport
- Portland PDX Airport
- Tampa TPA Airport
- Cleveland Hopkins CLE Airport
- Raleigh-Durham RDU Airport
- Houston Hobby HOU Airport
- Pittsburgh PIT Airport
- San Diego SAN Airport
- San Antonio SAT Airport
- Nashville BNA Airport