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Nov '11

Tips for Busy Days at the Airport

The holiday season means busy days at the airport. When you’re making air travel plans, remember that the busiest days are those immediately before and after a holiday. If you can, avoid those days – try to travel two or three days before or two or three days after, and even consider traveling on the holiday itself if possible.

Whatever day you travel, remember that you don’t want to be on time for holiday season flights – the key is that you want to be early.  The usual rule is to arrive at the airport 90 minutes in advance for domestic flights and two hours in advance for international flights, but during the holidays you may want to arrive two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours in advance for international departures.

At the airport, you may encounter a new type of screening technology: millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology machines. These devices screen passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats that could be concealed under layers of clothing. The machines screen passengers quickly, and most are able to proceed immediately through the security station. While these machines originally generated a unique body outline of each passenger, raising some personal privacy concerns, new software eliminates passenger-specific images and uses a generic outline of a person when screening passengers.

The following rules for airport security screening are probably familiar, but it may be helpful to review them before taking a holiday season flight. As you approach an airport security checkpoint, be prepared to:

  • Remove your coat or jacket and your shoes and place them in security trays for screening. Children are usually subject to these rules as well, and may need help with their coats and shoes. Frequent travelers often opt for slip-on shoes to speed them through the process.
  • Secure all liquids or gels in your carry-on bag in a clear, quart-size plastic bag and place it in a security tray. If you forget to prepare this bag at home, most airports have bags available at security checkpoints. Remember, each container of liquid or gel can be no more than three ounces, or it will be confiscated. The TSA refers to this rule as 3-1-1, meaning three ounce liquids or gels allowed in a single (one) one-quart bag.
  • Empty your pockets of change, keys, cell phones, combs, eyeglasses, etc., and put these items in a small security tray for screening. If you’re wearing a belt, you may also be asked to remove it as well. To speed up this process, savvy travelers typically take care of placing these items into their carry-on bags prior to their approach through security screening.
  • Remove any computers or other large electronics (video game consoles, remote-control toys, etc.) from your carry-on bag. Unless you have a TSA-approved bag, you’ll need to place them in a security tray for screening.
  • You may be in a hurry, but double-check that you’ve collected all of your belongings from the security trays before you leave the security checkpoint.

Remember that Thanksgiving travel can often be impacted by winter weather. Be sure to keep your travel agent’s contact information stored on a fully-charged cell phone just in case you need any additional assistance once you arrive at the airport.

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