Many airports increasingly offer a variety of amenities such as spas and high-quality shopping and dining experiences to help travelers enjoy themselves as they wait for their flights. However, it’s safe to say most flyers aren’t too eager to spend overly long amounts of time in any airport, either. In truth, flying can be both stressful and exhausting, especially if you’re going through one of the busier airports out there, so what can we do to cut down on the time we spend at them?
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
We’ve spoken before about the Transportation Security Administration’s trusted traveler program, PreCheck, mostly because joining it is one of the best steps you can take to minimize your time at the airport. Both TSA PreCheck and US Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program for US citizens traveling internationally allow you to get through security and onto your plane faster. The less time you spend in any security line is more time you have to take a breath, get your bearings, find your flight, check in and then relax for a moment.
Red Eye Flights
Just like with cities, airports follow a daily rhythm complete with traffic flow and rush hour style movement of both people and vehicles, including airliners. But you can greatly reduce the time you spend at an airport by taking off-peak flights known as “red eyes.” These overnight flights leave airports late at night and arrive at their destinations early in the morning, meaning you’ll avoid long check-in and security lines, crowded commutes to and from airports and congested airport parking. Flying via red eyes doesn’t always make sense, but when it does you should strongly consider booking such a flight.
Picking a Security Line
TSA works very hard to ensure air travelers spend the minimum amount of time possible in one of their security lines while still ensuring the maximum amount of security. When it comes to any line, though -- whether at a stadium, a movie theater concession stand or at an airport -- human nature often comes into play. Most people are right handed, and everything they do is subconsciously biased toward the right, including when they pick a line in which to stand. Several studies have shown that people gravitate towards the right when it comes to lines, and this is no different when it comes to an airport security line, so if you have a choice pick a security line to the left. Chances are it will have fewer people waiting to go through it.
The MyTSA App
TSA offers a downloadable application for smartphones and tablets called “MyTSA” and it’s extremely useful for finding current security wait times and any delays at your airport. Using it, you’ll also be able to find the shortest security line. Simply enter your airport’s three-letter city code, such as LAX for Los Angeles, and the app will return current weather, whether any airport delays are occurring, whether TSA PreCheck lanes are open and just how long the wait in one of its security lines will be.
Travel Smart by Planning Ahead
Even if you only fly occasionally, never head to the airport without having some sort of plan for getting through it and to your flight. Every airport maintains a website and each airline serving it does as well, so consult both before you fly. Additionally, there are many other websites and applications specifically set up to help flyers reduce their stress once they’ve made it through security. These include finding the best free wi-fi, ordering and then picking up a meal before you board your flight and even purchasing a day pass to an airport lounge where you can relax before flying. The many ways in which you can minimize both your time and your stress while at an airport, especially in 2020, are practically endless.
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.
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