Let’s assume you have already enrolled in TSA Precheck. You know the basics, like not getting in line behind a large family with young children and an infant in a stroller. What else should you do?
- Arrive early: You will need to find parking, unless you’ve taken Uber or a black car. Security lines can get long, especially during holiday periods.
- TSA Precheck might not be open: If you are on an early morning flight (think 5:45 a.m.), the airline desks might be staffed at 4 a.m., but TSA security might be opening one lane at a time. TSA Precheck might not open for another hour. Your status might get you to the front of the line, but the TSA staff might expect you to comply with the standard security procedure.
- Passport or driver’s license out: The initial line moves faster when you have your ID in hand.
Store the small stuff: Place your keys, cellphone and anything big and metal into your carry-on bag. Although under ideal circumstances you walk straight through a scanner, metal sets it off. At times of heightened security, expect them to raise the sensitivity of the scanners.
- Expect to take off your jacket: In the summer, you should just breeze through the scanner wearing your suit jacket. If winter travel means wearing a trench or overcoat, they will expect you to take it off, regardless your TSA Precheck status.
- Wear slip-on shoes: You might assume TSA Precheck lets you keep your shoes. Sometimes the security lines blend. Other times, metal in shoes sets off the scanner. Slip-ons save time.
Assume you might be asked to follow the old rules: For whatever reason, the TSA person might keep repeating: “Belts and shoes off. Laptops in a separate bin.” Although you are TSA Precheck, it’s faster to just comply.
- Don’t touch anything: If the TSA staff wants to search your carry-on luggage, you might think unpacking the bag yourself is a good idea. Keep your hands to yourself.
- Stack bins: Some people grab their stuff and leave the plastic bins on the belt. This stops traffic at the screening machine. Put your empty bins on the stack, plus any others someone might have left. It’s polite. It takes seconds.
- Go to the Recombobulation area: General Mitchell International Airfield in Milwaukee came up with the name. You are claiming your stuff after screening. It’s winter. You need to get back into your boots, coat, etc. Carrying your stuff away from the moving belt to the area where you can sit down and reassemble yourself speeds TSA screening for other passengers.
- Changing flights might involve another screening: If you are arriving from overseas and connecting to a domestic flight, expect to walk into the public part of the terminal, then pass through airport security again to reach the gate area. This can be a problem if you bought duty-free liquor. You were handed it when boarding the plane; it’s in your carry-on luggage. When you go through security a second time, they stop you because of the large bottles. The solution is to transfer the bottles to your luggage once you clear customs and recheck your bags. Checking your carry-on is the other solution.
- Thank them: The TSA security people have a tough job. Everyone wants them to move faster. They encounter people who fly infrequently and don’t understand the rules. Language can be a problem. Saying “Thank you for keeping us safe” only takes a couple of seconds. Smile. They will appreciate it.