The Sum­mer of Our Dis­con­tent

Air­port se­cu­rity lines are test­ing the pa­tience of the most sea­soned trav­el­ers

Business Traveler (USA) - - TALKING POINT -

For ex­pe­ri­enced trav­el­ers, air travel in the US this sum­mer is shap­ing up to be an ex­cru­ci­at­ing af­fair. In case you’ve been se­cluded on a desert is­land for the past sev­eral months and missed the news, air­port se­cu­rity lines are al­ready es­sen­tially out of con­trol, and it prom­ises to get much worse be­fore it gets bet­ter. So fre­quent fliers – who are used to whisk­ing across hun­dreds of miles in the span of a few min­utes – can count on hours in line shuf­fling the 50 or 100 or 200 feet to the TSA check­point.You may ac­tu­ally spend more time in the se­cu­rity line than you’ll spend in the air, as­sum­ing you make your flight at all.

The cause? Too many pas­sen­gers, not enough screen­ers. At least that much every­body seems to agree on. Be­yond that, the de­bate gets more ac­ri­mo­nious, with pas­sen­gers blam­ing the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the agency re­spon­si­ble for se­cu­rity screen­ings, and the TSA blam­ing con­gres­sional fund­ing cuts. Oh, and pas­sen­gers are at fault too, the agency says, for not sign­ing up in droves for the Pre-Check pro­gram.

So far, blame is plen­ti­ful; so­lu­tions are scarce. TSA is promis­ing to add more screen­ers and bomb-sniff­ing dogs (although we must con­fess at be­ing some­what sur­prised to learn that a dearth of dogs is the cause of these bot­tle­necks). The agency has also asked Congress for more money – no sur­prise there – though that rem­edy would prob­a­bly not kick in soon enough to do much good in the short run. Mean­time, the only help­ful hint the agency, the air­lines and the air­ports can of­fer pas­sen­gers is to get there hours be­fore flight time and ex­pect a wait. Say, that’s some use­ful ad­vice. If you oc­ca­sion­ally fol­low my mus­ings on these pages, you know that, at heart, I’m an op­ti­mist, es­pe­cially about the world of travel. Whether it’s fly­ing around the world, nav­i­gat­ing the streets of an un­fa­mil­iar des­ti­na­tion or ex­per­i­ment­ing with a new cui­sine, there’s joy in the jour­ney.

Sadly I can of­fer no such Pollyanna-ish phi­los­o­phy about be­ing stuck in this sum­mer’s end­less se­cu­rity lines. Oh, I could lie and tell you that the TSA has le­gions of Har­vard-ed­u­cated re­cruits ready to take up screen­ing du­ties next week (not likely). Or that IATA is rolling out a whiz-bang sci-fi se­cu­rity tech­nol­ogy that will elim­i­nate not only the lines, but the need for the TSA as well (maybe in a dozen years or so).

The truth is, there doesn’t ap­pear to be any real re­lief in sight from any­one who can make a se­ri­ous dent in the prob­lem. So it’s up to us fre­quent trav­el­ers to make a dif­fer­ence ev­ery time we fly. There isn’t much we can do about the lines, or the waits, or the hordes of va­ca­tion­ers ahead of us who are un­aware of the pro­to­cols around shoes and belts and liq­uids. But we’ve all flown enough to know how to al­lay the ten­sions and ease the pain. Here are some of my sug­ges­tions: 1. Be early. Plan ahead and don’t as­sume you’ll be ‘lucky’ this time. Your usual air­port ar­rival sched­ule prob­a­bly won’t work this sum­mer. Bet­ter yet... 2. Be flex­i­ble. Try an al­ter­nate air­port near you. A cou­ple hours’

drive to a less crowded fa­cil­ity might just be worth it. 3. Be cour­te­ous. Be­rat­ing screen­ers will not make things go any

faster. Try thank­ing them in­stead. 4. Be pre­pared.You know the drill, so get ready for the screen­ing

ahead of time. 5. Join Pre-Check. Re­ally. If you haven’t en­rolled al­ready, do it. It’s money well spent. The news isn’t good for fliers this sum­mer, but we are road war­riors and we will make the best of it.

We al­ways do. BT — Dan Booth Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor

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