Airline Security Tips

airline_delays_photo_2AP’s Harry Weber offers some tips to “speed through airline security.”  For the most part, they’re rather dubious.

Consider bringing your laptop in a sleeve. Skooba Design sells a laptop sleeve for $19.95 that you can carry on your own with a removable shoulder strap and can unfold to lie flat on the airport X-ray machine belt. The Transportation Security Administration will allow you to keep your laptop in such bags during the screening process if security can capture a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop. […] Bottom line: The price is right, so it’s worth the cost if you regularly carry a laptop.

This may save you a few seconds and some modest amount of aggravation whilst going through security but you’ll make up for it when you’re actually trying to use the laptop.

Travelers with Web-enabled mobile devices like a BlackBerry or iPhone can download their boarding passes, then hand over the devices for scanning by federal security screeners and airline gate agents. The service is not yet widely available but it’s expanding. Continental offers the mobile boarding pass option at more than two dozen airports.

If you’ve got a smartphone — and I do — why not? There’s some slight risk of running out of power or some other system’s failure, I guess. And it could save you a couple minutes waiting for the paper to come out of the printer. But will it actually get you through security faster? I don’t see how.

Consider buying a carryon liquid gels kit. Eagle Creek sells a kit for $15 that comes with a clear plastic zip top bag and four travel-sized squeeze bottles. The bottles hold up to 3 ounces of liquid. You would carry the kit separate from your other belongings.

Or, for 3 cents, several companies sell zip top bags that you can put your own bottles in. And just keep it packed for flying. That said, a kit of refillable bottles might be handy for very frequent fliers. But, again, it’s not going to speed you through security, just make your life a little easier.

Make sure to have your boarding pass and identification at the ready. Not having to fumble around will save you a few minutes.

Well, unless you’re a complete novice flier, you’re doing this already. And, unless you’re a complete moron, it won’t take you “a few minutes” to get your ID out, anyway.

Most of these “tips” are like those cutesy things the George Clooney character in “Up in the Air” did to speed his way through. But, in reality, the reason the process is so slow is other people. With the rare exception of the times when the scanner finds something odd in my carry-on luggage (invariably a glitch in the system rather than something I’m not allowed to have) my own portion of the interaction with the security folks goes rapidly.  It’s waiting for the people ahead of me that causes the holdup.

So, scoping out the lines to get in the ones with business travelers rather than the ones with old folks and  families with strollers makes some sense.  These things?  Not so much.

Now, if everybody did these things, they’d speed up the process.  But your doing it will shave a few seconds off your part of the process and for those in line after you.

In fairness, though, Weber does offer some advice that might be useful for people in special circumstances.

Consider checking your bags at your hotel.  For instance, Disney offers a free luggage concierge service at some of its Walt Disney World resort hotels in Orlando, Fla. If you’re departing domestically on a designated airline, you can get your boarding pass and check your luggage at the hotel, bypassing airport check-in completely. Disney says guests have to visit the hotel airline check-in desk up to three hours before their flight. Delta, United and AirTran are among the participating airlines.

Also some parking lots near major airports, including the Atlanta airport, allow you to check your bags for free. Only certain airlines participate but it can free you up from carrying your bags to the terminal.

Bottom line: If it’s free, what’s the harm?

None whatsoever.  This won’t help most people but it’s useful to be aware that such opportunities exist.

If all that doesn’t get you to your commercial flight on time, those travelers with lots of disposable income might want to consider a piece of advice from Robert Mann, an airline industry consultant in Port Washington, N.Y., “A private jet.”

Indeed.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the means for a private jet.  And I probably wouldn’t get one if I did, since it’s often a hassle to get takeoff and landing rights at major airports.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mithras says:

    Travelers with Web-enabled mobile devices like a BlackBerry or iPhone can download their boarding passes, then hand over the devices for scanning by federal security screeners and airline gate agents.

    Wait, what? When I fly, three people look at my boarding pass: The TSA agent at the front of the security line, the agent just past the magnetometer, and the airline gate person. The first TSA agent examines my ID and then scribbles something on the boarding pass to award me secondary screening or not, then I show the boarding pass to the second TSA agent. If I have the boarding pass on a screen, how will the first agent indicate I should get secondary screening? And how do I show the pass to the second agent, since the phone has to go through the xray machine?

    The practice of using boarding passes as a security measure is slightly loopy anyway.

  2. Brian says:

    Travelers with Web-enabled mobile devices like a BlackBerry or iPhone can download their boarding passes, then hand over the devices for scanning by federal security screeners and airline gate agents. The service is not yet widely available but it’s expanding. Continental offers the mobile boarding pass option at more than two dozen airports.

    I first used my iPhone to go through Reagan Airport in DC a few weeks ago. The first agent looked at the bar code and passed me through, and the second agent, the one who you normally queue up to get the colored marker scribbles from, was the one who actually scanned the bar code. The main problem, though is that since so few people use the system yet, he actually had to turn on and warm up the scanner, which probably slowed me down by 10-15 seconds.

    On the plus side, the kids in the family next to me were absolutely blown away, and thought it was the coolest thing in the world.

  3. Mithras says:

    Brian: The TSA agent scanned it? They don’t scan paper boarding passes. And when you got to the magnetometer, did you not show the TSA agent there the screen?

  4. floyd says:

    Harry left out some real time savers, carry nothing metal or liquid,and travel with only a carry-on.

    Mail unacceptable or questionable items to your destination ahead of time.

    Wear only an orange coverall and slip-on deck shoes,[lately underwear has become questionable!]

    Never look a bureaucrat directly in the eye!

    For any trip under a thousand miles, just take the car, it’s cheaper and faster. [And you don’t have to rent a car on arrival].