Anyone enjoy going through airport security? Thought not. While some airports have sought to improve the passenger experience by piping music or installing aquatic walls through the airport security area, very few people enjoy standing in lines. Then you have the added hassles of taking items out of your bags and pocket, or removing your coat or shoes. Oh and then there’s waiting for those in front of you to do the same!
Despite the inconvenience, we all know the importance of security checks. They are there to save our lives. To that end, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, and even private sector companies have developed some great programs to speed your way through the hassle. Do all of the following and you could save up to an hour off your travel times.
1. Enroll, enroll, enroll!
We cannot stress this enough. Programs such as PreCheck, Global Entry and CLEAR have been meticulously researched, developed and tweaked so that they provide the easiest passage through the airport for travelers while maintaining high levels of security. If you are eligible for the programs, it is well worth enrolling in one, two, or all three. If you haven’t already enrolled and are wondering which is the best one, or the best combination, read on:
TSA PreCheck is the most popular traveler program in the United States, it’s also the least expensive and has the most opportunities to be used with over 200 airports participating. It reduces travelers’ physical security screening requirements because once enrolled with PreCheck there is no need to remove shoes, belt or light outerwear, and laptops and 3-1-1 liquids bags can stay packed away. In addition to the security check being much faster because of the reduction in physical screening requirements, the lines are also much shorter than the standard lines. Once enrolled you can enter the designated TSA PreCheck line.
Who is eligible? The TSA Pre✓® program membership is open to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
TSA is currently testing in-airport enrolment via tablets for PreCheck, which will attract those who haven’t yet had time to enroll as well as those who hadn’t even thought about it but who cast envious glances at the shorter PreCheck line!
Enroll in PreCheck here right now:
U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) operates Global Entry, which includes PreCheck, so technically if you enroll for Global Entry you are automatically included in PreCheck. Everything mentioned above applies – and then some. With Global Entry your immigration and customs processing time is shortened when you re-enter the U.S. After leaving the plane and before getting your baggage, you’ll head for the Global Entry kiosks, skipping the immigration screening lines.
Who is eligible? U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of the following countries are eligible for Global Entry membership: Argentina, India, Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Mexican Nationals. There may be additional requirements you must meet depending on your country of citizenship. To find out if additional requirements must be met, select an International Arrangement and your country of citizenship. Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program. If you are under the age of 18, you must have your parent or legal guardian’s consent to participate in the program.
Global Entry kiosks can also be found in several non-U.S. airports such as Toronto Pearson and Abu Dhabi International. Or you can apply now by clicking on the icon to the left.
Biometrics-driven CLEAR, which is the most expensive of the three programs, is run by third party — not by TSA or CBP. CLEAR works in partnership with the airport security authorities. Travelers enrolled with CLEAR use an alternate dedicated screening lane, which enables them to skip the manual boarding pass and ID check. There is very often no line at all, making it faster than both the standard and PreCheck lines. If you have both CLEAR and PreCheck, you get the benefits of speeding to the front of the line AND keeping your shoes on, your laptop in our bag, and any other benefits afforded with PreCheck.
Who is eligible? CLEAR is currently only available to US citizens and legal permanent residents 18 and older with a valid photo ID.
Travelers arrive at the TSA physical screening checkpoint; those with PreCheck go to the PreCheck screening section, others enter the normal TSA screening process — ahead of everyone else. Airports participating with CLEAR have very easy enrollment at the airport, or you can sign up by clicking the CLEAR logo!
2. Work with the technology
Walk-through imaging scanners are designed to recognize familiar shapes and can be confused by things like a bulky necklace or knotted scarf. The algorithms may well see such items as concealment, triggering an alarm, which in turn triggers the pat-down. So work with the tech and if you usually wear glasses, have them on your face instead of flipped up on top of your head. The machine knows the shape of a head but can be confused if a pair of glasses are there as this can be interpreted as concealment. For the same reasons, don’t turn up laden with jewelry and stuffed pockets.
3. Wear the right shoes
If you have not enrolled in PreCheck (see above) then you may need to remove your shoes. Slip-on shoes will obviously be much quicker to remove and put back on again than knee-high lace-up boots.
4. Keep those carry-on liquids, gels, pastes and aerosols less than 3.4 ounces
Oversized liquids, gels, pastes and aerosols in carry-on bags create delays. A TSA officer needs to open your carry-on and remove the item at which point you have the choice to put the item in a checked bag, hand it to a non-traveling companion or let TSA dispose of it. Any substance that exceeds 3.4 ounces that can be spilled, sprayed, spread, pumped or poured is considered a liquid, gel, paste or aerosol. If it’s 3.4 ounces or smaller, put it in your 3-1-1 toiletries bag. If it’s larger, pack it in your checked bag.
5. Join the club
Many airlines have elite clubs for frequent flyers that offer benefits such as faster security screening. The same is often true for business or first class travelers.
6. Use your smartphone
Numerous apps have been developed to help the flying public get the latest information on flights, delays, and security measures. Below we feature two proven apps with the ability to download each by clicking on the icons — for more options you can go to the google play or apple store and search airport apps or airport security apps.
One of the most popular, and award winning, is the MyTSA App that provides passengers with 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information on any mobile device. Save time and money with helpful tips for preparing for security, including a searchable database of items that can and can’t go in checked or carry-on bags. The app uses crowdsourced information on what times and historical data on how busy an airport may be on a given day.
Who is eligible? Anyone is eligible to download the MyTSA app.
According to CBP, Mobile Passport Control (MPC) allows U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors to use the Mobile Passport app to expedite their entry process into the United States. It is the first app authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for eligible travelers with a smartphone or tablet to submit their passport information and answer CBP inspection-related questions prior to CBP inspection. Much like Automated Passport Control (APC), the app does not require pre-approval and is free to use. The app streamlines the traveler inspection process and enables CBP officers to focus more on the inspection and less on administrative functions. Mobile Passport is currently available at 28 airports and 4 cruise ports.
Who is eligible? U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors can use Mobile Passport Control. Travelers must have a smart phone that can connect to the Internet or mobile network.
Mobile passport is free, and Mobile passport Plus is $14.99 per year with the addition of a document scanner, passport storage and no ads. Eligible travelers can download the Mobile Passport app from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store – click on the icon to join now.
7. Don’t be “funny”
Don’t make security jokes. Jokes about having a bomb in your bag will not amuse anyone, nor will they make your passage through airport security fast or pleasant.
8. Finish your coffee
The strong smell of coffee can be used to mask that of illegal substances, so by carrying/trying to carry coffee through the security checkpoint, you draw the attention of the TSA officers and are more likely to be stopped.
9. Use a TSA-compatible lock
Many passengers like to secure their belongings when traveling. Buying a TSA-compatible lock is critical. If you secure your checked baggage with a lock that isn’t TSA compatible, TSA will use bolt cutters to remove the lock. Officers cannot risk that there is something dangerous inside without inspecting the interior of baggage that triggers an alarm. Additionally, incompatible locks can break the machinery that moves your luggage from you to the plane, and from the plane back to you.
TSA-compatible locks have “TSA” printed on them with a number. The number corresponds to the key that TSA officers will use to unlock and open the bag if it triggers an alarm through the baggage scanner. No more broken locks and unsecured baggage. For more information on the how and why of TSA compatible locks, click here.
10. Get REAL with your ID
Starting October 1, 2020, every state and territory resident will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license/ID or another acceptable form of identification (like a passport or passport card) for accessing federal facilities — including boarding commercial aircraft. To check that your ID is REAL ID compliant, look for a star in the top right corner. Learn more about the requirements of REAL ID here.
Should you have any questions about your travel security, including which items may be prohibited, remember you can ask TSA directly, via @AskTSA on Twitter or message Ask TSA on Facebook.