How to bring an airport security line to a halt (and get it moving again)

There are two simple ways to bring an airport security line to a halt: Ignorance of the old rules and failure to learn the new ones. You probably went to the trouble to find the cheapest possible ticket for your flight, so don’t miss it by getting stuck in a long line at security. This will help; a list of security dos and don’ts.

1. Ignorance of three new rules

All electronics come out of the bag: It used to be only laptops but now everything from phones to tablets to handheld games, anything electronic, has to be removed from a carry-on bag then placed in a bin to go through the X-ray. Tip: Put some kind of identifying mark or label on each item; the TSA’s lost and found has plenty of electronic gizmos folks forgot to retrieve. Don’t add yours to the pile.

Food rules: This may not happen every time but you could be asked to remove all food items from your carry-on. Remember, if you’re bringing anything that could be described as even somewhat liquid-ish (perhaps a gift of homemade jam over the holidays) it will be dumped unless it is in a container that holds 3.4 ounces or less. As for other, more solid food items, they’ll simply be inspected and returned to you.

De-cluttered bags: You may be instructed to keep cords neatly tied up and remove items like powder (this might be powdered makeup or a dietary supplement powder), all in the name of making it easier for X-ray machines to get a better view of what’s in your bag.

2. Chainsaws and other weird items

Actually, chainsaws have been brought through security in the past and may be approved for carry-ons if they are not gassed up and there’s no fuel residue inside them (but this depends on the airline). Forget weapons, though, but the real thing and all those replicas people keep trying to bring through security in carry-ons such as rifle-shaped umbrellas and “decorative” hand grenade replicas. When in doubt, check the TSA’s list of banned items.

3. Bad jokes

You want to bring security line to a screeching halt? Make a joke about a bomb or terrorism. It doesn’t matter how obviously silly it is, doesn’t matter if you’re not anywhere near security, just make the joke in the airport and there’s a good chance you could be detained. It happened in April to a Green Bay Packers player who allegedly made a joke about explosives in a bag; ultimately no charges were brought but not everyone is so lucky. Tip: When it comes to bomb jokes, people who work in airports have no sense of humor whatsoever.

4. Assuming security personnel can read minds

Maybe you’re required to take certain medications on a daily basis, need certain medical equipment such as needles or have a piece of metal in your body; the TSA officers don’t have the power to read your mind so you’ll have to tell them about this before you reach the metal detector or risk slowing things down. Even better, call the TSA Cares hotline 72 hours before departure at (855) 787-2227; by letting them know about special needs in advance, you can get additional assistance during the screening experience.

5. No PreCheck

I’m all about saving a buck, but sometimes it pays to spend a little and the TSA PreCheck program is a very good deal. For $85 you get a five-year membership ($17 per year) which allows you to keep shoes on, toiletry bag stays in the carry-on and best of all, you get to use the PreCheck-only line. If you fly overseas much, try Global Entry; it costs a little more but makes returns through customs so much faster, and it includes PreCheck.

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