You’ve probably already heard horror stories about unusually long TSA security lines at airports, which may only get worse as the summer travel crush adds more travelers to airports.
While we wait for the TSA to fix this, mainly by adding more employees and keeping the ones they have from quitting, here are some strategies to make sure you don’t miss your flight.
▪ Obviously get to the airport super early. If you hate waiting at airports this might be a good time to splurge for an airline lounge day pass. American, for example, charges $50 for a one-day pass.
Plan to arrive at the very least two hours before boarding for domestic, three to four hours international.
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For the Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports, when cruise ships come in, even two hours might not be enough to get through airport lines.
But for some airports, such as Miami or Fort Lauderdale, when the cruise ships come in, even two hours might not be enough.
▪ Sign up (now!) for TSA Precheck (www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/apply) or Global Entry (www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply). I prefer Global Entry because it includes Precheck and it’s good for five years for a $100 fee. Some premium credit cards, such as the Amex Platinum Card, reimburse the fee.
The problem with Precheck is that at some airports the special lines are open for only a few hours a day, again because of staffing shortages. But not only are the lines much shorter than regular TSA lines, you don’t have to take out your laptop and liquids, and you can leave your shoes and light jacket on.
▪ Another hack: Buy priority access to TSA lines such as JetBlue’s “even more speed” (www.jetblue.com/flying-on-jetblue/even-more/), which gives you expedited lines through TSA. United has a similar program called Premier Access, which starts at $15. Delta calls it “Sky Priority” and it’s available at select airports.
▪ Fly from less busy airports. If you live on Long Island, fly from Islip rather than from JFK, for example; in South Florida, try Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami. Long Beach usually has shorter lines than Los Angeles International Airport, and so on.
▪ Try to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday when airports are less busy. Some times of the day, such as midday, are slower than during the morning and evening rush, so lines should be shorter.
▪ Or if you really want to make your plane on time and you fly Delta, its VIP Select Service is offered at LAX, JFK, San Francisco, LaGuardia, and Atlanta. For $250 on top of any Delta fare you get escorted to the front of the TSA line and even get a transfer between flights via a private car service on the tarmac plus other VIP perks such as Skyclub lounge access. Call their VIP phone line at 855-235-9847 to book. American has a similar program but it’s only available to business and first class passengers.
George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing website Airfarewatchdog.com