If you don’t participate in TSA’s PreCheck trusted traveler program, going through one of the security agency’s checkpoints to get to your flight could take a little time, depending on the crowds. For one, non-PreCheck air travelers typically must remove their shoes, belts, jackets and other items, and if they have electronic devices such as computer laptops, those must be separately examined as well. Additionally, TSA security officers conduct random checks of passengers waiting in their security lines. If you’re selected for additional screening you can count on extra time to make it through, which adds to your worries if you’re already late for your flight. There are some things you can do, however, to limit the stress you might experience whenever you're in a TSA security line.
Experienced travelers always have their carryon luggage, computer laptops, coats, jackets and the like set up so that they’re easy for TSA screeners to examine. Also, digging around for your travel-related documents such as photo ID, boarding passes or tickets takes time and TSA screeners, in trying to help you out, may pull you to the side so that you don’t slow down the people behind you. Of course, getting back into line once you’ve sorted everything out could add even more time and stress to your experience, which you don’t need.
When it comes to carryon luggage, always refer to the TSA website as to what items are permissible to bring through security and pack your bag accordingly. Throwing a jumble of your favorite electronic devices, complete with wires, cords and chargers into your bag and expecting a TSA screener to easily sort out just what they are isn’t advisable. Keep everything in your carryon bag neat and organized and you might just be surprised at how short your time in the security screening line will actually be.
TSA 3-1-1- Rule
Don’t forget TSA’s rules for liquids and similar substances, too. According to TSA, each liquid being brought in carryon luggage must be in a 3.4-ounce or less container, which is the “3” in its “3-1-1” rule. All such containers must be placed inside one (“1”) clear quart-sized plastic bag, and each traveler is allowed only one (“1”) plastic bag in their carryon bag. More travelers needlessly spend more time in a TSA security line because they forget this simple rule than for any other reason, unfortunately. At minimum, if you travel with excess liquids in your carryon bag you’ll spend extra time dumping them out into a TSA security container. You may also find yourself selected for additional screening, which will end up costing you even more time going through security as TSA screeners hand-search you and your carryon items.
Drinks and Snacks
It’s always smart to finish any drinks or snacks you have with you before you approach the security screening tables in your line. For one, not doing so will slow your way through actual screening and TSA screeners may have you step to the side to dispose of your food and drinks anyway. If you allow for adequate time to check in for your flight, make it through security and then pick up any food or drinking water or other items once you’re past the TSA checkpoint you’ll find yourself experiencing much less stress.
Organization is the Key
Getting through TSA security in short order isn’t difficult and the security agency’s checkpoints are models of efficiency designed to thoroughly screen every traveler in the minimum time needed. But it does take time to screen someone going through security with a lot of items in their luggage or computer laptop bag as well as on their person. Organization is the key to limiting your time in a TSA security line, so always make sure the items in your carryon luggage and laptop or other bag can be easily examined, whether by x-ray or other machine or by a TSA screener.
Kelly Hoggan, Founder and CEO of H4 Solutions, previously served as assistant administrator for operations at the Transportation Security Administration. In that role, he was responsible for aircraft and checkpoint security operations at the nation's 400-plus commercial airports.