Security Line Etiquette

People are always in a hurry in the airport. The security line, by it’s very nature, makes us feel rushed and tense. Here are a few tips to make the line easier on yourself and your fellow travelers.

  • Be ready. Before you leave home, consider what will need to be removed for security. Do you have a tablet or laptop? How about a ziploc bag full of 3 oz liquids? Anything that needs to come out for security needs to be easily accessible for this initial part of your trip. As a rule, I put my jewelry in my purse pocket and don’t even put it on until after security. Do not be the person who stops the entire line, unzips an overstuffed rollerboard, and digs haplessly around for her liquids. You know security is coming, so plan ahead.
  • Accept that you’re going to stand in line. Rarely do we get the chance to breeze through security, although it does happen. So accept it. Do not complain loudly about it to other passengers, on your mobile phone, or to the TSA employees.
  • Use your line time wisely. As you’re standing in line, start to pull things out. If you have on boots, unzip them ahead of time. Untie your shoes. Start pulling out your liquids and laptops/tablets.  Empty your pockets. By the time you arrive at your first bin, have that laptop out and ready to pop into a bin by itself (or with your tablet) and your shoes ready to step out of.
  • When you arrive at your bin, please pay attention to the TSA folks. They are trying to tell you things that will speed you along. A lot of airports are trying new ways of getting people through security. At ATL, we now have a really nifty automatic bin conveyor contraption. But you often step away from your party and it’s confusing the first time. So listen to the TSA folks – they’re trying to help. They also appreciate an occasional smile.
  • Fill your bins quickly, but do not overfill. Laptops and tablets can usually go in together. (Pulling out the tablet is relatively new thing.) In another bin, place your shoes, liquids, sweater/jacket, purse, small bags. Empty your pockets. You can share a bin with other members of your party, but don’t overflow or overstuff. Keep it all relatively flat. If you have a rollerboard or duffle, once the relevant items are removed, place it on the belt without a bin. I recently noticed that having food in your carry-on will cause TSA to hand-check your bag. So now I pull that out too.
  • Once you’re through the metal detector, don’t leave etiquette behind. Every airport has a seating area of some sort immediately at the end of the security area. Please, grab your bins and immediately move to that area. Here you can sit down and calmly put on your shoes. You can also put everything back into your bags and this time, you can put them in your bags in the right order for traveling as opposed to for security. Do not be the guy who totally redresses himself and rearranges everything in his luggage just as the bins are coming down the conveyor belt. Everyone else is dying to put their shoes on and find they haven’t lost a laptop. Be considerate and have a seat.

I recently signed up for TSA Pre-Check. For $85 and 10 minutes of your time, you can greatly reduce your own security-induced tension. $85 gives you a 5-year “membership” and, after fingerprinting and a background check, you’re issued a Known Traveler Number. I’ll admit the Pre-Check line often looks daunting, but it is rarely takes as much time as regular security. It is also less stressful, as you’re in a time warp back to 1999. You don’t have to take out liquids or laptops or remove sweaters or shoes. Bags go on the conveyor; you walk through the line. That’s it. (Global Entry is $100 and includes Pre-Check and will zip you through Customs.)

Additionally, I’m adding Clear to my travel memberships. Clear uses biometrics (retinal scan or fingerprints) to verify your identity. The combination of Clear and Pre-Check is brilliant. Clear will immediately get you to the front of any line. Pre-Check gets you through the easiest line. If you have the combination, then the Clear “ambassador” will walk you to the very front of the Pre-Check line. Suddenly, you are going through security like a breeze. Clear is $179/year and additional family members are $50. If you’re a Delta Medallion member, it’s only $79. Many companies also offer significant discounts on Clear through their individual Perks programs. Clear is not available everywhere yet, but it seems to be at most of the major US airports.



Featured Image by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr, licensed/relicensed under CC-BY-SA

1 Comment

  • Lisa 2018-05-01 at 3:09 pm Reply

    I wish I had read about my jewelry before I went through TSA, I packed mine in the suitcase

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