Travel Advice/Travel Tips - Airport
security in the U.S.
If you are looking for information on the airport
security rules in the United States and the United Kingdom regarding carry-on luggage, liquids, and gels that are
still in effect and we describe them
Airport security has become more stringent in our
post 9/11 world. The added security has slowed the check-in process,
lengthened the security lines, and slowed the boarding process. If you
have not flown in the new security environment, we provide a description
of what you should expect to encounter.
Most airports advise you to arrive two hours before
your flight is scheduled to depart.
- In some airports, we have found the two-hour
requirement to be excessive.
- In others (e.g. Orange County, California), it is
too close for comfort during peak travel times.
If you will be traveling with carry-on luggage,
avoid the check-in line by printing your boarding pass at home.
- Most airlines will allow you to check in
- We have found the ability to print our boarding
passes a real time saver.
- Alternatively, major airlines are now
converting from human help to "boarding pass" kiosks and these can
be an effective way to get your boarding pass and even arrange to check
If you need to check luggage, you can. also,
do it through a skycap, if you have a paper ticket or have pre-printed
your boarding pass as described above.
- If you plan to check your luggage at the
ticketing counter, get in line and prepare to wait.
- When you acquire your boarding pass, you will be
asked to carry your bag to a security counter where you will hand it
over to personnel who will ask you some questions and, eventually, take
your luggage for loading.
Once you have cleared this hurdle, you will need to
get in line for the security checkpoint. Your wait may be lengthy but
there is no alternative, so read a newspaper while you serpentine your
way to the scanner.
- When you reach the scanner, you will need to
place your carry-on luggage in a bin prior to loading it into the
- If you are carrying a personal computer, you will
need to extract it from its case and place in it a separate bin for
- Your liquids and gels need to be in a quart-sized
plastic bag that must be show to the security personnel. There are
a number of restrictions on what can be in the bag and the amount of
materials that you can transport. We cover this information
- You will need to place your overcoat or jacket in
a bin for scanning before you will be allowed to enter the metal
- Remove belts, jewelry, and shoes, and place them
in another bin for scanning.
- If you have a large belt buckle remove your belt.
- If you have hair decorations made of metal,
- Some larger airports now have “shoe sniff”
devices that analyze your shoes for the presence of explosive materials.
You will be required to exit and re-enter the metal
detector if it detects something that could be a security threat.
- You must remove the offending object and place it
in a bin for scanning, before you can take a second try at the metal
- Those travelers who have not cleared their
pockets may fail the detector test and have to wait for an
individual inspection by personnel using a hand scanner. (See our
article on preparing for
If the scanner operator feels that your luggage has
items that might be security threats, you will be required to wait in
another line until an agent can hand search your belongings.
- In addition, the agent may pass a wand with a
removable filter over your bags
- The filter is then removed and passed through a
device that tests whether the filter contains residues from explosives
or chemicals that might be a security threat.
In September of 2004 the Transportation Security
Administration implemented additional passenger screening procedures
that increased the use of explosives trace detectors, expanded the use
of pat-down searches, and gave screeners more latitude to refer
individuals to secondary screening.
- The new procedures require all passengers to
remove outer coats and jackets for X-ray before proceeding through the
metal detectors. Included are suit an sport coats, athletic
warm-up jackets, and blazers.
Passing the security gauntlet is quite a process. I
have become so acclimated to the routine that I now travel with a
shoehorn in my pocket, so I can get my shoes back on my feet without a
major wresting match. Now, if I could just remember to put my belt back
on before my trousers start to inch down my hips.
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