Sitting in Dulles international, completely unshaven and still jet lagged from my last trip to the middle of nowhere; I was headed to Florida for a training conference. Five TSA officers arrive and congregate by the gate as boarding is about to start.
“That’s weird”, I think to myself. In no hurry to board, I head the restroom before I get in line. Queuing up to board I notice the agents are still there. As I approach the gate agent, the TSA agents move to flank me with the head agent asking me to move to the side for an additional search. I smile and agree without protest, then move to the side where an additional agent is waiting to pat me down.
I look at him and jokingly ask, “So… have you guys been waiting for me this whole time?”
Yes really, I realize. I look back and the other agents have taken my backpack and are going through it.
How ironic. I was literally headed to facilitate data analysis training to stop bad guys.
Was I outraged? No, not at all. This was a two minute inconvenience. Had I been non-compliant, difficult or a pain in the ass they would have been well within their rights to detain me. In case you didn’t know, TSA has complete authority in the airport and they already thought I was suspicious; any provocative behavior would have only served to further raise their suspicions and land me in a cold windowless room instead of on a beach in Florida. I’ll take the pat down and an on-time arrival for some beach time.
So how do you breeze through airport security?
Sometimes you won’t have an option as to which line you can queue up in; but if you do, always avoid strollers, people with a ton of luggage, or high maintenance types (the ones with headphones in and sunglasses still on).
The new scanners require you have EVERYTHING out of your pockets. That means everything. Seriously. Everything – get it out. If you’ve rolled up your sleeves, unroll em, the scanner will ping you for that as well.
When I travel I wear pants that have a fabric belt built in. No belt to remove – one less step. I wear no watch or jewelry (you don’t need bling overseas anyway). Shoes are untied before I reach the bag scanner, and my bag is open computer is within easy reach.
The #1 way to avoid a delay at security:
Don’t carry restricted items. The FAA can levy a civil fine of $1,000 to $5,000 for breaking these rules. Save that cash for another trip or a business class upgrade.
“Scanning technology is coming that may speed up the screening process.”
Here’s a quick list of forbidden items that the FAA sees most often:
- Cigarette lighters – you’re allowed two of them in checked bag if they’re in a special carrying case that is hard sided approved by DoT… with a special permit. Seriously. Just buy a lighter when you land.
- Handled lighters are forbidden.
- Canned O2
- E-Cigs are forbidden in checked baggage (as of Nov 6th 2015).
- You are allowed one (1) in personal carry-on.
- Keep it with you, do not let it be checked at the gate.
- Cannot be charged in-flight.
- Cannot be used in flight. But why, JC? Well, according to Carlee Cellar, Hazardous Materials Safety Specialist with FAA, the heating element is capable of generating extreme heat. Another major problem is that the device can overcharge and melt down. Not a good idea in a flying metal tube.
- Spare lithium batteries should be carried in the device or in their original packaging.
- Again do not check these, they must be on your person.
- Avalanche backpacks – remove squib and CO2 cartridges.
- Self defense spray – You are allowed one four oz spray bottle.
- 4oz or smaller.
- With locking mechanism.
- Must be checked.
- Not tear gas. Pepper spray is okay.
- Propane / butane is not allowed. Not even the empties.
- Sterno or petroleum based fuels are not allowed
- Strike anywhere matches.
Rule of thumb, nothing combustible or compressed. If you’re still unclear as to what can or can not be taken on an airplane, visit the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s website.
Want the personal touch? Email the FAA at [email protected]
Does it feel like it takes forever to get through security?
Good news is on the horizon: According to TSA Customer Support Manager Bob Kapp, “Scanning technology is coming along that may speed up the process.” [Look for] …shoe scanning technologies and biometric scanning that scans you as you pass through.”
While we’re waiting for technology, here some other tips for a quick pass through security:
- Have your passport and whatever entry documents are required ready to hand to the agent.
- Never reach into the scanner until your bags have come past whatever barrier is in place. Reaching into the scanner will get your hand slapped or worse.
- Put your camera away, photographs are usually frowned upon in these areas and could get you singled out.
- Be polite. No really. Being accommodating may save you a trip to secondary inspection.
Remember, you’re not through the woods once you’re out of the scanners and past the security line. If they want to search through your things, they can; TSA has all the authority and can do whatever they want as long as you’re in the airport. I’m still not sure why I was pulled aside that day, other than a bushy beard and a hang-over like demeanor. A white guy with a round-trip ticket purchased by credit card and checked luggage doesn’t sound like your typical terrorist, does it? Honestly I am ‘pro’ profiling. That said, I’m also glad they go outside the typical profile and take extra measures against non-traditional suspects.
Have you been stopped at security?
How did it go?
Xray photo: Via Flickr/MichaelSauers