Let’s be honest, airport security lines were never very quick and they’ve certainly never been pleasant. And just when we thought that traveling through an airport couldn’t get any more annoying, the Transportation Security Administration got even slower. Nobody seems to be sure what’s causing it, but they’re certainly not happy about it. In the last two months, angry customers have launched attacks against the TSA on social media, mainly under the hashtag #IHateTheWait. Airports like Seattle-Tacoma International and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International have threatened to push out the TSA entirely and just hire private screeners. After the outcry—and lines that have gotten so bad that they can take two hours or more to get through—the TSA finally responded last week. “I would not characterize it as a national crisis,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. And it’s not. But they are making everyone mad, including the airlines. Johnson went on to acknowledge that the delays were being caused by an 8 percent increase in air travelers (oh, so it’s our fault now?) and a shortage of security officers. He presented plans that included the addition of more officers and canine teams to all major airports.
They’d better step it up—Memorial Day is just around the corner, and if people were mad about missing their flights during spring break, they’re not going to go easy during peak summer travel dates. But until we start to see some real changes be implemented, there are ways to combat the wait times or avoid them entirely, according to Expedia’s travel expert Sarah Gavin. Some tips may seem obvious, but they are still worth heeding so you’re not queuing up in a line into an airport abyss. Below, seven tips and tricks for getting through security without any #IHateTheWait.
“Where possible, carry on your baggage to avoid potentially long lines at check-in. Also, be sure to avoid items that may result in getting your bag checked at security, including oversized liquids or corkscrews.”
“When selecting a security line, keep an eye out for how other travelers ahead of you have packed and if they’re traveling with kids. You’ll have a much better chance of getting through security swiftly if you stay close to those who appear to have not packed their entire closet.”
Ask the question.
“Be sure to ask a TSA agent where the fastest line is when you get to the airport. You don’t always have to jump right into the line nearest to your gate. The agents always stay in touch with each other, and, if you’re nice, you can get the best tips on where to go.”
Speed up the security process.
“Signing up for TSA PreCheck ($85 for five years) and Global Entry ($100) can often allow you to shorten time spent in line by providing expedited clearance through security when arriving for your flight, as well as bypassing long customs lines upon arrival in the United States. According to the TSA, PreCheck customers wait in security lines that are under five minutes. A few major airports, like Denver, San Francisco, Houston, and Las Vegas, also offer a program called Clear, which is $179 a year and allows you to speed through security by checking in at a separate, virtual kiosk.”
Keep your mobile apps close.
“Be sure to keep your phone handy throughout your trip for quick access to important notifications such as flight delays and gate changes. It’s also important to keep in mind that checking in ahead of arriving to the airport can save major time by allowing you to head straight to security if you’re carrying on baggage.”
Arrive earlier than usual.
“With airports across the country already experiencing long lines at security, plan ahead to arrive earlier than usual for your flight. If you’re traveling with a family and end up with extra time at the gate, make sure to come prepared with snacks and entertainment for your kids while you wait. Being early is definitely better than missing your flight!”
Travel during off-peak times.
“To decrease your chance of security delays, travel during off-peak times, as there are often less people traveling during the week, as opposed to during the weekend. Some studies have shown that on average, security lines are slower on Friday afternoons between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Wait times can double then.”
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