Help Speed Up Airport Security

November 28, 2007

in Airports, Information, Packing, Safety, Travel

If you fly often, you know the drill: what (not) to wear, take off your jacket and shoes, empty your pockets, take out your laptop, take out your baggie of travel-sized liquids. If you don’t know at least these five things when you approach the security checkpoint, you are holding up everyone behind you. Your additional 30 seconds, and that of the man behind you and the woman behind him, add up to hours of extra wait time in airport security lines around the world every single day. Here’s what you can do to help.

Apparently the secret to faster screening is longer tables. Sadly, there’s not much you can do about that. CNT’s short list of things in your control is as follows:

1. Strip yourself of all offending bits of metal BEFORE going to the airport.
2. WEAR loafers.
3. Carry your laptop OUTSIDE your bag.
4. Put your keys, loose change, pens, eyeglass cases, watch, cell phone and belt IN your carry-on. (My tip: put them all in a clear plastic baggie like your toiletries.)


From an interesting article on two months undercover as a TSA screener, the longer version:


+ DO keep your boarding pass in hand.

- DON’T tell a screener that you are about to miss your flight (it won’t win you any sympathy and could even arouse suspicion).

- DON’T try to jam everything into one bin in a misguided effort to be helpful—it’s much harder to screen.

+ DO lay your bag on its side (the upright position is much harder to “read” and may trigger a rescreening).

+ DO put items through the X-ray machine only when you are ready to walk through the metal detector. This minimizes the time you’re separated from your belongings.

- DON’T block traffic by repacking your belongings on the conveyor belt.

+ DO make sure that you have all items before you leave the checkpoint.

- DON’T accuse screeners of theft: Once you’re certain an item is missing, speak to a supervisor.

Clothing and Accessories

- DON’T wear clothing with metallic objects such as buckles.

- DON’T wear lots of jewelry or hairpins that can’t be easily removed.

+ DO wear easily removable shoes.


+ DO take the plastic bag holding liquids out of your carry-on before putting it through the X-ray machine.

- DON’T say you “forgot” you have liquids in your bag.

+ DON’T tell screeners “it only comes in this size” or “it’s almost empty” when asked to surrender containers of liquid larger than three ounces.

+ DON’T tell them how much you spent on the toiletries—it won’t make any difference if they’re the wrong size.


And if you need it even more clearly spelled out for you:

+ Know before you go: it’s YOUR responsibility to know the rules and typical procedures before you fly.

+ Avoid heels, boots, zippers, buckles, metal studs, underwire.

+ If you want to dress up in such things, fine — keep those clothes in your suitcase and change AFTER going through security.

+ If seemingly mundane clothing or shoes set off alarms, make a mental note and avoid wearing them on future travels.

+ Don’t forget to go through your purse for “liquids” like lipstick, lip balm or hand lotion.

+ Have suspicious things near the top of your bag or take them out completely and put them directly in the bin to allow immediate visual inspection (things TSA has regularly found suspicious in my bags include a pack of 4-AA batteries, my travel alarm clock, my travel mirror, my laptop lock, my empty water bottle, my thermos).

+ Do as many of these things as possible BEFORE entering the security line; if you’ve forgotten, do them while IN line rather than waiting till you’re at the front; always take off shoes and coats and have laptop ready 2-3 people before your turn.

+ After your screening, thank the security employees and wish them a nice day.

Have I forgotten anything? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

{ 4 trackbacks }

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nora Rocket 11.28.07 at 5:58 pm

Great post! I always try to be as pliant as possible at airports, because it’s not a fight worth having and that’s not the place to have it. It stuns me that people are still reluctant to take off their shoes, surprised when laptops have to come out of bags. I fly infrequently and I hate it, and I’m usually perscription drugged-up to keep from weeping like a widow and sweating like a glass of iced tea. But I STILL manage to remove my (heavy, buckled, often studded) belt, (steel toed) boots, cell phone, iPod, jacket, scarf, etc., WAY before I hit the conveyor. I don’t even get in the line until I have my boots unlaced and I don’t re-dress myself until I’ve stumbled far away from the screening area.

Oh, an additional DON’T: Don’t sing “The Stripper” to everyone in the line when you take off your junk. You find it funny and TSA, contractually, must not.

2 poetloverrebelspy 11.28.07 at 10:03 pm

Probably not so much the singing as the accompanying hip gyrations, am I right, Nora?

3 Dana 11.29.07 at 5:37 am

For some reason, the shoe thing seems the hardest for some people. I’ve worn hiking boots pretty much constantly since 6th grade, when my ankles started getting perpetually sprained due to lack of support, and it really didn’t take me very long to learn to sit in an empty chair well before getting in the security line, untie the shoes, tuck the laces inside the shoes, and then put my feet back in. Sure, I can’t do any running with my shoes that way, but shuffling through a line is fine. Then again, I am always kind of jealous of those people who can actually wear slip-on shoes without them falling off their feet.

I don’t travel all that frequently now, and I’m glad, because the procedure has gotten so annoying. My dad, however, still has to travel all the time, and he, the person who taught me that if I wanted my things to get to my destination with me, I’d be best to get it all in a carry-on, has started checking luggage again, because he doesn’t want to deal with all the liquids and toothpaste regulations.

Of course, I did just listen to him tell tales this weekend of getting forgotten pocket knives through security multiple times.

4 Cash Article 11.29.07 at 4:32 pm

The main thing i’m enjoying while reading your blog is the way you write, you are a really charismatic person and your posts are wonderful, keep it up!

5 poetloverrebelspy 12.04.07 at 11:26 am

Find this and other posts from female bloggers at SheBlogs Carnival, hosted by Sex and the South.

6 Gudrun 12.06.07 at 7:32 pm

thanks for the tips, we are off with our kids (ages 5 & 7) tomorrow on a flight.

For travelers with kids, I would add these recommendations:

- prepare your kids for what will happen; explain they will need to walk through the detector themselves, they will need to remove their shoes, they need to put their backpacks on the conveyor belt

- we send one parent through, then the two kids, followed by the last parent. The first parent through helps get the kids back in shoes and collects things. The second parent picks up any remaining items and shields the family

- make sure your kids are wearing easy to remove shoes and that all their toys and lovies are stowed in their backpacks or carry-ons. Beforehand, remove toys that might get caught, like my son’s little airplane that always looks suspicious. We leave it at home now!

- give yourselves plenty of time! The last thing you want when traveling with kids is to be trying to rush through security

Thank you again for the recommendations, I am picking my security-appropriate outfit now :-)

7 poetloverrebelspy 12.06.07 at 9:53 pm

Gudrun, those are some great additions! Security checkpoints can be nerve-wracking for kids, since they have to go through the metal detector alone and may be separated from a parent if additional screening is necessary. Having two parents and following the tips you provided definitely makes the procedure easier. Thanks and I wish you and your family beep-free travels!

8 poetloverrebelspy 12.10.07 at 5:51 am

Find this and a wide variety of other posts at the Anything Goes and General News Carnival, hosted by Avilesnews.

9 poetloverrebelspy 12.20.07 at 11:30 pm

Packing List Challenge liked this post so much they just copied and pasted it onto their site!

10 joanne 02.05.08 at 12:37 am

thank you so much for a fantastic website so useful as iam at that age when my brain wors when it feels like it usually when i’m asleep i guess

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