Who hasn’t made it to the airport in plenty of time only to be confronted by a seemingly endless airport security line? These days you don’t need to be a diplomatic courier or platinum-status flyer to breeze through. With a few savvy strategies, you can cut your wait time and spend more time picking up a pre-flight snack.
• Dress for success. Metal detectors can really slow you down, especially if you are bejeweled to the max. For a speedier security check, pack your bling in hand luggage (it’s not insured if it is in the cargo hold). “Before you head to the airport, put all of the items that might trigger an alarm — metal jewelry, wallet, cell phone, key and coins — into an easy-to-access pocket of your carry-on,” says Sari Koshetz, a TSA spokeswoman based in Miami. “Then, after you clear security you can put it back on.” Not only are you less likely to drop or misplace something, but jewelry has been known to get caught in X-ray machine rollers or fall through cracks.
Reconsider high heels (which often contain metal) as these may also set off an alarm. Slip-on shoes are your best bet. Don’t wear a belt, unless there is no way to keep your pants up (we don’t want you to show up on an embarrassing YouTube video). Other metal-containing items that could cause issues include cufflinks, clothes with big metal buttons or studs, and body piercings.
• New tech, you bet. Advanced imaging technology (AIT) including millimeter wave machines have made it much easier and quicker for passengers to clear security. The trick to getting in and out? Take everything out of your pockets, and we mean everything, even facial tissue. If you can stuff everything into your carry-on bag, do so before you go through security. If not, tell the TSA officer what you have and hold it in your hand. Also, if you have any artificial joints such as knees, hips or shoulders, let the TSA officer who checks your ID know and head for the line that uses an AIT machine. Since you will likely set off a metal detector, this saves you time waiting for secondary screening.
• Pay your way. You may think only business and first-class passengers get to cut to the head of the security line. Not so. Several airlines now sell a “fast pass” through security. United Airlines Premier Access starts at $9 per flight segment and gives you priority at check-in, security and boarding points. Likewise you get extra perks including special security lanes and/or access by purchasing a Southwest Airlines Business Select ticket or Frontier Airlines Classic Plus fare.
• Bag a bargain. Be sure to have a stock of plastic bags at home. Remember the 3-1-1 rule. If you can squeeze it, squirt it, pour it or spray it, it must be less than 3.4 ounces and packed into a one quart-sized clear, plastic zip-top bag. Only one bag is allowed per passenger. For prescription medication or baby formula in a larger container, separate it from the rest and notify the TSA officer before it goes through the scanner. A new rule for you souvenir fans: Snow globes are now allowed, as long as they are not much bigger than a tennis ball and will fit into your 3-1-1 baggie.
• Check, check and pre-check. For $100 (good for five years) you can join Global Entry (globalentry.gov). Operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the program allows Global Entry members to pass through immigration and customs using automated kiosks that can scan passports and fingerprints at dozens of U.S. and Canadian airports. Global Entry members now qualify for TSA PreCheck, available in 40 airports including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa. Most of the time you’ll be “cleared” to use the special lane. To keep the bad guys on their toes, TSA randomly sends some passengers through the regular screening process.