Navigating airport security
A2017 study by Swiss International Air Lines found that British people spend an average of 52 days of their lives queuing. One of the most dreaded queues for the frequent traveller is security at the airport. In a recent survey by flight comparison site jetcost.co.uk, 73 per cent of Britons polled said they’d had a negative experience at the gate, and 81 per cent of those said they had been made late for their flight. With a few simple steps, however, you can cut your waiting time down, and make passing through security easier for you and others.
Several countries have implemented programmes that allow frequent travellers to have a thorough background check once every few years in lieu of being fully screened each time they board a flight. The best known of these programmes operates in the US. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Precheck allows approved US citizens to pass through airport security in a separate, shorter queue and avoid requirements such as removing laptops and liquids from their bags and taking off their shoes.
Non-US citizens can also receive
TSA Precheck when flying out of certain US airports by applying for Global Entry, another trusted traveller programme. Global Entry is a membership-based programme that identifies low-risk travellers and lets them pass through customs via a quicker queue with an electronic check-in upon arrival in the US.
A Global Entry membership costs US$100 and lasts five years, though it requires a visit in person to a US Embassy for interview at infrequent dates. UK citizens have to pay an additional £42 (US$55) for a background check to the UK government and can apply online at gov.uk/global-entry-usa.
You can speed up the screening process by scheduling your flight for an off-peak date or time. Avoid Fridays and Sundays, as these are the busiest days for vacation travellers. Similarly, Monday mornings are a prime time for business travellers. Leaving on a Tuesday or Wednesday is your best bet if you’re trying to avoid the masses. Common sense suggests avoiding Bank Holiday weekends and the dates around Christmas and Easter. Fewer people to wade through makes life easier not only for you, but also for the airport staff – which leads to another way to ensure a smooth trip through security.
Perhaps the most obvious tip is also the most essential: being respectful and gracious to the security staff will make for a quicker, more pleasant experience for everyone involved. Airport security guards move thousands of people through the gates every day. The guards can work long hours and through the holidays. Their job is often stressful and it’s imperative they do it well. A simple smile or thank you can go a long way. If you have a legitimate question, ask it in a polite, non-accusatory tone of voice. And above all else, be early enough to the airport that you’re not placing an extra burden on them by asking them to rush you to your flight.
Don’t be the person that holds up the queue because you haven’t got your belongings ready for inspection. A jacket with several pockets can be a time-saver when you’re rushing to collect your wallet, keys, phone and watch from the conveyor belt. Slip-on shoes are quicker to take off and put back on if there isn’t anywhere to sit. You can also avoid removing your belt by wearing one with a non-metal buckle. And make sure any items that must be scanned separately (laptop, liquids, etc) are easily accessible. The person behind you won’t appreciate waiting for you to dump the contents of your briefcase onto the conveyor belt and fish around for your iPad. Just have everything ready to go. Laura Miserez