The theme for this summer’s travel: Stagnation. Less TSA staff at airports this summer has meant longer security lines at airports all over the country. It’s frustrated millions of travelers and made more than a few people miss a flight. According to Marketwatch.com around 70,000 people missed a flight due to long security lines this summer.
Even if you arrive at the airport as early as you’re used to, you may not be there in time to make it through the lines. As the summer has gone on things have improved slightly, however more airports still recommend following several steps to ensure that you don’t miss your flight this year.
Enroll in TSA PreCheck
Most travel experts are recommending paying an extra fee, just $85 for five years, to enroll in the TSA PreCheck service. The service is open to all legal U.S. permanent residents as well as residents living abroad. TSA PreCheck members can skip the normal line and head to a special security line where they don’t have to worry about the little things that take time: taking of belts, liquids out of bags, etc.
The problem with TSA PreCheck, is more people are using it. Over 2.5 million Americans have been approved for the speedier lines, as of this April. And some ome PreCheck lines are only open during certain hours each day. That’s because the TSA is still involved in the process, and their staffing issues impact even the faster lines.
But USA Today recommends you check with your airline. Some of them have priority access lines that offer even faster options. JetBlue, United and Delta all have these options, according to USA Today, with limited cost.
Global Entry is another option that some experts say is faster than PreCheck if traveling to another country. It’s $100 and a wise investment for anyone traveling internationally. Some American Express card-users can get Global Entry for free. Just call your credit card company to find out.
Fly on Low Traffic Days
The best way to make it through the long airport lines is to fly during days and times when most people avoid. Airports are busiest, according to CNN, on weekday mornings and late afternoon/early evenings. But if you have to fly during the week, try to fly on Tuesday or Wednesday. If you have to fly during the week, aim for midday flights.
The day to avoid most: Friday afternoons. Security lines are longest, on average, on Friday between 4 p.m. And 8 p.m. You should also research local airports. Airports in vacation destinations like Miami, for example, are usually packed with people around Noon on Saturday, when most boats dock and most people have checked out of hotels.
During the holidays, avoid peak travel times. Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving are the worst times to be in airports, for example.
Packing light is essential to keeping long security lines moving at airports. You should try to pack light and carry your baggage onto the flight. This will help you avoid the bag check line.
Pick the Right Security Line
People-watching is an important strategy to making it through security lines at airports with multiple lines open. Look at how other travelers ahead of you in line have packed. Does it look like they all brought their entire closet with them? Try to find a line that has people who packed the lightest.
You can also find security lines as some airports that are away from your carrier. If your carrier’s line is longer, look for shorter check-in lines from other carriers and walk by their desks to see if there are shorter security lines there.
Opt for Smaller Airports
See if there are smaller airports that you can fly out of. For an extra half hour drive, for example, you can fly out of the smaller Akron/Canton airport and avoid the larger Cleveland, OH airport. This is easier if you have family you’re visiting, rather than a business trip. But if you have a ride from the airport, or renting a car, an extra 45 miles out of your way may be worth it to avoid waiting hours at an airport, or missing your flight all together.
Other Key Tips
Airports are increasingly using Twitter to keep people posted on lines in the airport. So follow the airports you fly out of to get constant updates about what to expect when you arrive.
You can ask the TSA at the airport for the shortest lines. People that work there every day will know if there is a shorter wait somewhere else.
Arrive really early. It’s common sense but find out what time the airport or airline recommends arriving at the airport. Usually it’s best to try to arrive even earlier than the recommended time.
You should also be ready for the screanings. Wear shoes that can slip on and off quickly, take out your laptop and remove liquids from bags before you get to the front of the line. Empty your pockets as soon as you can.Typically TSA lines have bins ready a few spots before you go through security.
By: Ron Schaberg
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