A 14 Step-Guide to Speeding Through Airport Security

A little preparation will save you hours this summer

June 16, 2016 9:00 am

As everyone on the internet has told you — probably while they were snaking through a three-hour line — airport security this summer is a b*tch.

Fun stat: the TSA had screened 57 million more travelers through May in 2016 vs. 2015 … and with several thousand fewer security personnel on the books.

Foregoing common sense — like, say, knowing that your laptop needs to come out of the bag — we’ve got 14 tips for breezing through security this summer.

A few apps, a few new services and a few unexpected expert tips, all in an effort to make the skies friendly once again.

At least from the ground.

Ante up a few extra bucks for Global Entry
After an application process, Global Entry allows you to speed through customs. Nice. But more importantly, GE includes a membership to TSA PreCheck, which gives you access to much shorter, dedicated security lines on your way to your flight. It’s worth the extra few greenbacks to go Global ($100 for GE vs. $85 for five years of service).

Stay at these hotels, and/or use these cards
The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (Radisson, Country Inns, etc.) is allowing loyalty members to use points toward a TSA PreCheck application starting on July 1st. And a number of premium travel rewards credit cards include fee credits for Global Entry. If you’re really cheap, using a frequent flyer number when you make your airline reservation will occasionally get you access to the TSA PreCheck lines without being a member.

Fly on Saturdays, not weekday mornings
If you want to avoid lines, try not to fly early in the morning or between 5-8 p.m., says Michael Holtz of SmartFlyer. Saturdays are particularly good, because leisure travelers are still out and business travelers are at a minimum.

If you need to make a connection, use this app
Mobile Pass is a poorly designed but eminently useful (and officially sanctioned) app for iOS and Android phones that allows you to zip through byzantine customs queues into a short, dedicated Mobile Passport Control line. Not great on the initial security line front, natch, but if you’re connecting locally after an international flight, it could save you a hell of a lot of time.

Get this travel bag
If you’re prone to a last-minute fumbling of headphones, wallets and assorted pocket goods just before hitting the security scanner … well, be more prepared. But also look at Hook & Albert’s Essentials Travel Case, a handsome way to get your passport, smartphone, tickets and other essential flight knickknackery into one organized package.

Use this luggage service
The volume of carry-on bags has quadrupled in recent years, and it’s the biggest reason security lines are slowing down. We suggest bringing as little luggage as possible and utilizing DUFL, a service that stores and ships your clothes to you in a hardshell roller. Everything you need will be waiting when you arrive, and they’ll take care of it as you check out. No bags equals one less problem at the security line.

Fly out of Atlanta
Thanks to Delta (first time we’ve ever said that), the Hartsfield-Jackson airport now features an automated security system that forgoes the single-file security line for five “innovation lanes” that utilize automatic rollers/bin returns and RFID tags to help you ID your stuff post-screening. It’s making things about 30 percent faster.

Use your airline status
Delta offers a “private, premium” check-in at LAX for Delta One passengers. American Airlines features a similarly expedited service at several U.S. and international airports for First and Business Class. Alaska Airlines has express lines for MVP Gold/75K Mileage Plan members at a number of airports, mainly on the West Coast. And JetBlue has expedited security for their new-ish Even More Space seat purchases.

Be careful what you put on your hands
From our New York editor: “There have been two times that my hands have tested positive for bombs at the swab test. I’m told it is because of the glycerin in my hand lotion.” She adds: “I can say that the cavity and bag search that ensues definitely doesn’t resemble efficiency.”

Wear Sabahs
Our style director loves these Turkish slippers. “Best travel shoe ever, because you can slip ’em on and off at security,” he says. “And if you need to put ‘em in your bag later, they’re almost perfectly flat.” He suggests pairing ‘em with no-belt drawstring chinos and a chambray shirt.

Check your line status in advance
Some airlines will text or email you if the queues are long. And TSA just started posting up-to-the-minute wait times on their website and myTSA app. There’s also a separate app for that same info — MiFlight, though it comes with iffy reviews.

Advice from our Managing Editor. “Pick them up and proceed to another area like a civilized human,” he adds.

Wait for Congress (seriously!)
Hey, did you know there’s been an arbitrary cap on the number of screeners the TSA can hire since 2013? But according to The Economist, both the House and Senate seem ready to remove that cap, as well as shift responsibilities of some of the more iffy TSA jobs (like the “behavior detection officers”) to regular screening positions … and increase general funding to the beleaguered agency.

Sue the TSA
Might take a while, but hey, you’re a hero if it works.

Finally, something we can all agree on.


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