Airport Security: Pass Security Checkpoints Faster!
We want to ensure an enjoyable, safe, and secure experience wherever we go, including at airports. Though the government and airport authorities take strict security measures, passengers can also ensure their safety in various manners.
On this page, you will learn all tips that will help you reduce your wait time at the security checkpoint.
Update: Non-stop flights entering the U.S.:
Extra security checks will require that you can demonstrate that your electronic devices are in working order - therefore, CHARGE all your electronic devices prior to getting there.
Also, check out the Global Entry Program to get expedited processing when traveling to the US from abroad.
At Home: Before you Leave for the Airport
Days are gone when you could arrive at the airport for a last minute check-in, share goodbye kisses with your near and dear ones, and have friendly chats with your pilot as you board the flight. The state of airport security has changed altogether these days, affecting both well-traveled airports such as LAX and Orlando MCO, but also smaller and regional airports like San Jose airport & Las Vegas LAS.
Undoubtedly, we all want safer airspace. But, we all understand the trials of navigating airports these days. Keeping this in mind, we have compiled this guide for you to make your travel time less stressful and travel safe entirely.
Before you leave for the airport, it is important to make sure that you are carrying the right clothing. Also, you should be equipped with all the right amenities to carry on. Ideally, make a strategy to save yourself time as you make your way through long queues.
It is important to note that simple and loose clothing will make you feel comfortable while flying. Do not carry metal ornaments like belt buckles or jewelry because these items will be removed from your luggage at the security checkpoint.
Then, how does one transport metal objects through security? As an alternative, place your keys, loose change and other metal things in a container or plastic bag before arrival at the airport. In this way, you will be able to streamline your check-in process.
Your shoes are also important when flying. Take your shoes off unless you are wearing flip-flops. Ideally, wear a pair of slip-ons the next time you plan an air travel. If you are traveling with your children, they do not have to take off their shoes before boarding the airplane.
Airport safety offices like TSA agents randomly check everything you carry with you at the airport. They want to make sure you don’t carry anything that is not secure for you or other passengers.
Note that if your luggage is locked, the security personnel have the right to break the lock if they want to inspect the items inside. In order to avoid this to happen, you can do this by using a TSA recognized locking mechanism. Only the TSA can open this.
But, if you are traveling internationally, you still run the risk of having your luggage locks broken at the security checkpoint by a security officer. There are several rules for packing checked baggage. For instance, pack sporting equipment, even knives and swords. But, make sure you avoid explosive and flammable objects. Combustible items also include alcohol. Therefore, make sure you think twice when carrying a bottle of wine while air traveling.
Restrictions and rules keep changing. Therefore, you are advised to always check the Transportation Security Administration’s website for updates each time you travel.
Security Rules for Passengers
- Do NOT pack or bring prohibited items to the airport. Visit http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information for a complete list.
- 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 you pack your carryon luggage, make sure you layer your items. A near layer of clothing, electronics, more clothing, and any heavier items makes it convenient for the x-ray technician to check the items properly.
It is important because if you throw in everything thoughtlessly without layering them, then important items like an MP3 player and cell phone may also seem like a possible threat in the x-ray machine.
Avoid packing larger or heavier electronic items like video cameras and laptops in your carry on. If you have to carry on these items with you, the security officer will ask you to remove them from your carry-on through the x-ray machine.
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 airport 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. You are advised to check children air travel requirements to be sure of everything.
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.
What to pack in Your Carry-On Bag
- Toiletries/Liquids: Pack in containers that are 3.4 ounces or smaller. Further, pack the container in a quart size bag (more on this later).
- Hand sanitizer - TSA allows every passenger to bring one liquid hand sanitizer that weighs up to 12 oz.
- Medications - All kinds of medications are allowed in larger amounts. Make sure you declare this to the TSA officers for inspection at the security checkpoint.Medications should be labeled accordingly to avoid being questioned by the security officer at the checkpoint.
- Formula, breast milk, and juice - These items are exempted from the TSA Liquids Rule and have to be screened separately.
- Food/Snacks - These items are allowed if they’re not in liquid, cream or gel form.
- Electronics - Tablets, laptops, power banks, cameras, and other electronic devices are allowed in both checked bags and carry-on. You are advised to pack these items in your carry on so that you do not lose them.
- Disposable Razors - These razors usually come in two types. The first one is completely disposable (handle and all) while the other one has replaceable cartridges. Both are allowed in carry-on luggage with the blade and replacement cartridges. Read more about permitted razors here.
- Crochet/Knitting Needles - TSA allows carrying on knitting needles and crochet hooks made of different materials and of different size in carry-on and checked bags. Make sure you wrap them securely.
- Powders - TSA allows for powders that are 12 ounces or less in carry-on bags. Those larger in the size undergo separate screening or will be disposed of.
- Aerosol Sprays - Like liquids, gels and aerosols are safe to bring aboard aircraft if they are stored in 3.4 ounces containers. Also, these containers should be sealed in a 1-quart, clear plastic, zip-top bag. But, aerosols that are labeled as hazardous material are strictly prohibited in carry-on or checked luggage.
What you cannot bring in your Carry-On?
- Liquids larger than 3.4 ounces
- Sharp objects like box cutters, knives, ice picks, swords, meat cleavers, and scissors
- Sports equipment
- Wrapped gift items
AT THE AIRPORT - Getting through the screening process
Keep two things with you from the time you enter the airport to the time you board your flight:
- A current photo ID
- 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’s & Don’ts of Security at the airport
- Do NOT bring drinks or other liquids to the airport checkpoint unless they are approved and permissible items to fly.
- Do NOT bring food to the 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 a proper ID and your boarding pass is 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 receive a little extra attention, don't be upset.
Most of these searches are random. In addition, it does not mean you have triggered any suspicion. If you feel unfairly singled out, you are advised to visit AirSafe.com for resources on filing complaints with the Department of Transportation.
Do you have any questions about any of these procedures or airport security? Please call the TSA Consumer Response Center toll free at 1-866-289-9673, Monday - Friday between 8am-6pm (24 hour voicemail). You may also email TSA at [email protected].
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.