One of the reasons we often hear someone ask for advice on how early they should be at the airport is it’s easy to find yourself queuing up for ages in order to get to the front of the security check line. Even if we ignored for a moment how frustrating the actual process was, it still doesn’t even come close to the amount of discomfort you would face if you ended up missing your flight because of it. At the end of the day, a queue is a queue and even though you may not be able to completely skip it, there are certain tricks you can adopt to speed up the wait time.
1. Pick the shorter line
While this one may seem fairly obvious it still is very applicable. Most airports have two or more security areas and the ones closer to the flight gates that see more traffic are usually busier. This may take you further away from your gate, but picking the less busy check-up point can save you precious time.
2. Avoid the bottleneck effect at the beginning of the queue
People tend to search for their ID and boarding pass just before they get to the queue and you will often see a spread out group that causes a bit of mayhem at the beginning of the line. Make sure you zig-zag through the crowd to get yourself in a waiting position.
3. Prepare your ID and boarding pass in advance
Make sure to have your passport / ID ready before you even get to the waiting line so that you can easily avoid the bottleneck and be swift when presenting your documents to the traffic officer.
4. Take a screen of your boarding pass or download it
If you’re planning on using a digital copy of your boarding pass it pays to make sure that you have offline access to it. It’s smart to take a screenshot of it or download a copy just in case for whatever reason you lose access to the web at any given point.
5. Have your laptop and carry-on liquids ready for inspection
Don’t wait till you get to the top of the security check line to start looking for your laptop and liquids which you’ve stored at the bottom of your luggage. Instead, after you've double checked your carry-on allowance, pack them last on top of everything else so they’re nice and handy.
6. Don’t bring any liquids, gels and aerosols over 100ml.
Wether you prefer to rock a backpack or a suitcase as a general rule of thumb make sure you don’t bring any gels, liquids and aerosols that are more than 100ml as this will result in you having to wait for a security officer to inspect your whole case, something not only very time consuming but also fairly uncomfortable in terms of your private belongings. There are a few exceptions to this rule such as medications, breast milk and baby formula.
7. Take your jacket, belt, watch, etc. off in advance
Similarly to what we mentioned in 5, preparing in advance pays off, take your jacket, belt, watch and any jewelry that may set off the metal detectors before you reach the scanners and you will end up saving a few extra minutes.
8. Pick your time and date carefully
Try and avoid traveling early in the morning during the week or between the hours of 4pm – 8pm as those are the hours most business flights occur. Saturdays are also a good day to fly out on as a lot of people will leave on Friday and return on Sunday thus leaving the airport less busy.
9. Avoid contraband
This should go without saying but avoid bringing on any items that will not be permitted on the plane. If you are unsure of what those items are, you can always check the company and airport websites online. Failing to do so will result in your things being thrown out and in some cases may even lead to questioning.
10. For US passengers: sign up for TSA Pre-Check
This one is only applicable for US citizens and active elite members of any partner airlines’ Frequent Flyer Programs unfortunately, but you can sign up for a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) Pre-Check that lets you avoid having to remove your shoes, belt and laptop at security.
And now that you know the tricks to a swift airport entry, you can take the time you’ve saved yourself at the queues and try our suggestions on fun things you can do at the airport.