How To Get Through Airport Security Without Pissing Off Everyone Else In Line

Travel can be dehumanising, which is why it's important to be the best human you can be as you slog through airport security. Even if you can't make the experience of getting herded and scrutinised fun, you can take simple steps to at least avoid adding to the unpleasantness. Image by Robert Adrian Hillman, NextMars, Bloomua (Shutterstock).

Before You Leave

Yes, I know, thinking about being in an airport is almost as bad as being in an airport. Still, if you plan ahead, the whole thing will be marginally less painful.

  • Remove all your jewellery and metal accessories before you go to the airport. Even if your bracelet usually gets through without tripping the detector, there's no reason to take that risk.
  • Wear shoes without laces, so you can slip them off quickly. If that's not possible, unlace your shoes before getting in line. Never wear gladiator sandals or anything that needs a shoehorn to put on.
  • Don't wear pants that require a belt. It's one more thing to take off.
  • Don't wear see-through leggings without underwear. This won't set off security alarms but you will make everyone around you deeply uncomfortable.
  • Take all change out of your pockets.
  • Wear socks. Yes, even in summer. It gets cold on aeroplanes year-round, so you'll be happy you did. Plus, your feet won't touch the gross floor, and you won't force fellow harried travellers to stare at your toe hair.
  • Double-check your bags for liquids and other prohibited items, and keep an extra Ziploc in your carry-on. Even if you don't need it, you could make someone's day by having one on hand.
  • Read the government's travel tips before you go. Don't be Russell Crowe yelling on Twitter about the injustice of airport hoverboard bans. You should know what's prohibited.
  • Try not to emulate Russell Crowe in any way, really.
  • Take care of your travel documents! I went camping in Canada and a can of chilli exploded in my backpack and got all over my passport, and it never scanned again. I couldn't use the automated machines they have at Customs in certain airports, and my bean-scented documents didn't win me any points with Customs officers.

The last thing you should do before you leave: Slip a smile on your face, baby. Air travel!

While You're in Line

Once you queue up to be patted and examined, you should accept in your heart that the next 10-90 minutes are going to suck. Here's how to avoid contributing to the bad times:

  • Arrive early. The most obnoxious thing you can do in an airport security line is pressure people into letting you cut so you can make your flight. It's a great way to tell the world, "I think my time is more valuable than yours."
  • Actually use those baggage-measuring bins to confirm what you can carry on and what you need to check.
  • If you're backpacking, take the backpack off and hold it in front of you. It's easy to misjudge how far away someone is from you and nail them with your carabiners.
  • Keep your ID easily accessible, and take it out before you approach the ID check.
  • Don't talk on your phone.
  • In fact, put your phone in your bag. Yes, listening to music or texting passes the time, but you might miss an announcement if you listen to music, and you could hold up the line if you're not paying attention to how it moves.
  • Don't stall everyone by pausing to see which line is moving faster. Just pick a line immediately. You'll get where you need to go.
  • Don't engage in conversation unless someone else speaks first. Airport meet-cutes are a dangerous myth.
  • You can finish a bottle of water in line, but if it's not done as you're approaching the security check, don't make people wait while you chug. Just throw it away.
  • Take your laptop out of its case and carry it under your arm as you approach the front of the line — unless you have a TSA-friendly laptop bag. Which you probably don't.
  • If there are no chairs or benches available for putting your shoes back on, keep them in your hands and walk to the nearest bench — don't block other travellers by standing and fidgeting back into your shoes and jacket. This is why wearing socks is extra-crucial.
  • When people completely fail to follow these tips, holding things up and alienating their fellow travellers, don't loudly huff or shoot them a dirty look. It's an understandable impulse, but it only contributes to the already-crappy atmosphere.

There's a whole other set of rules for being a good aeroplane seat mate — rule number one is no farting, no matter how well the engine sound provides an audio cover — but I'll leave you with this.


Comments

    This is 2016 right... where 99% of people don't care who they piss off???

    Humans are a social species.
    Humans who believe we shouldn't talk with strangers (e.g. in queues), fail at being human.

    The best tl;dr is just to be prepared before lining up, so that when it's your turn through the metal detector/scanner there aren't any hold-ups. So some other tips:

    1. put everything in your carry-on ... so empty pockets, watch off, etc
    2. put your belt in there too ... it's a crap shoot whether the detector will trigger depending on how sensitive it's set to be ... if in doubt assume it will
    3. have laptop out and grab a tray for it asap
    4. jump the queue if others are faffing about ... they'll be pissed off but why should I (and everyone behind me) have to wait if you can't get your sh*t together
    5. make eye contact with the security personnel ... they're trained that avoidance behaviours are suspicious
    6. if you do trigger anything or are asked to do something, don't argue, just get on with it ... they'll always win and anything other than compliance slows you (and others) down
    7. expect to be drug/explosive tested ... I usually just walk straight up to them with my bag open. There are "tricks" to reduce the likelihood of being flagged, but often it's quicker and easier just to get it over and done with. Often this tactic actually results in disinterest and being waved on ... again you're low suspicion if you almost demand to be screened!

    Don't carry a pocket knife.
    I have a small nail clipper with a knife and nail file that folds in the side. when I realised I still had it with me I knew I have forfeited it. I showed it to the lady in security and the look she gave me made me feel I'd tried to smuggle it or something.
    When I got home I ordered another one online to replace it. Very similar to the smallest Swiss Army Knife but has a nail clipper.

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