1/21: “Traveling In a World of Heightened Security”

I live in Florida, and it’s awesome! However, being a film/TV production guy, I often travel for work.  When that travel involves flying, I always get a little antsy, especially now since airport security screenings have gotten even tougher in light of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Flight 253.

Chad Carter

Chad Carter

Let me say upfront that I don’t really fear terrorists like the “underwear bomber,” but rather, it’s the Transportation Security Administration that scares me senseless. Being caught unprepared for security screenings keeps me awake at night, and I avoid it like the plague.

The Air Transport Association reports that roughly 10% fewer people fly in January than in December (and, that’s without an attempted terror attack).  A USA Today/Gallup Poll, conducted earlier this month, also finds that 27% of frequent fliers are more likely than in the past to find some other means of travel rather than flying to avoid the inconveniences.  But even with fewer passengers, new security measures will undoubtedly slow the screening process. If passengers are unprepared, it will grind to a halt.

In fact, according to the TSA, the administration screened about 708 million travelers in 2006 (the most current numbers on the website…hmmm). From those travelers, they confiscated about 14 million prohibited items. That’s one item for every 50 people. Even in an example, I don’t want to be that guy.

So, anytime I fly, my goal is to navigate TSA security as efficiently as possible.  And, it all begins when you book your ticket. Not only are most airports empty at mid-morning on Tuesdays, flights are generally less expensive. If you can schedule travel during the week instead of on weekends, your travels will be easier.  I usually can get through the TSA screening line without breaking stride.

Knowing what to expect at the airport is also very important. Be sure to double-check that you’ve followed TSA guidelines when preparing for your trip.

But, a little practical knowledge never hurt anyone.  Here’s my usual plan once I check in and head to security:

1. After getting my ID and boarding pass checked, my laptop computer goes in the first plastic bin, I do not remove it from its protective neoprene case (the TSA no longer requires you to do so). My backpack (aka personal item which will fit under the seat in front of you,) goes on the conveyer belt next.

2. Shoes, belt, and jacket/sweater go in the second tub. The key to expediting this process is taking off your jacket/sweater while simultaneously stepping out of your shoes. Practice at home if you feel you may lose your balance and embarrass yourself.

3. If you carry a second bag (this one is your actual “carry on”, and goes in the overhead compartment), it waits patiently on the floor next to you until, barefoot and beltless, you place it on the conveyer belt just moments before the TSA screener motions you through the metal detector.

There are various things that will impede this streamlined process. (To the blonde lady of medium height at Jacksonville International Airport who didn’t realize that her Sam’s-Club-sized bottle of Suave conditioner didn’t meet the 3.4oz requirement and felt the need to argue about it, I am talking to YOU.)

The only way to avoid getting tripped up by these amateur travelers is to carefully pre-screen your fellow passengers during check-in and while in the security line. People who do not have their IDs in hand, or who fail to extract a crisp boarding pass on the first dive into their overflowing shoulder bag are prime suspects and should be avoided! If at all possible, try to skip ahead of them in line without drawing attention to yourself.

These tactics will help you navigate TSA security in a timelier manner.  If nothing else, they will keep you from being like the blonde in Jacksonville – or the rest of us who were stuck behind her.

This article is written by Chad Carter who assists The Marist Poll with video production.