Travel tip: quickly and easily cruise through airport security

By John Walton, August 4 2011
Travel tip: quickly and easily cruise through airport security

Getting through airport security checks with a minimum of delay and hassle is one of the holy grails of business travel. Here are the top five tips of the frequent flyers.

1) Choose your line carefully 

If you take one tip away with you, take this one: don't be afraid to pick the line you use, especially at larger airports. 

Avoid lines with anyone who looks like they'll take extra time: babies, children, obvious tourists (the ones wearing sweatshirts with their home town's name on it are especially avoidance-worthy) and the elderly. 

But it's not just about who's in the line, it's what's at the end of it. A slightly longer line may end at two or more x-ray machines and metal detectors, meaning that the line will move twice as fast.

Don't rely on the premium "Fast Track" security lines -- at key business travel times these are actually busier than the "slow track".

2) Travel in a jacket with pockets

As you approach the end of the line, start emptying your pockets into your jacket ready to put it through the x-ray machine.

Mobile phone, wallet, keys, swipe card, jewellery: anything that is likely to set off the metal detector goes into the jacket so that you don't get pulled aside to be "wanded" by the hand-held metal detector. 

Then you can just fold the jacket into the x-ray machine tray and walk through the metal detector.

3) Use the right carry-on bag

Your carry-on doesn't have to be a US TSA-approved laptop bag, but it does need to let you pull out your laptop quickly and easily. 

If you're a fan of roll-aboard bags, try finding one with a laptop pocket with a top opening so you can pull your computer out quickly.

Beware of packing too much electronic equipment in one bag, though. At many airports, if you have multiple layers of chargers, power cables, batteries, a couple of cellphones and so on, the person at the x-ray screen may need to empty some of your kit into a separate tray so it doesn't come through as a jumbled mess. 

That's why you put some of the things that will set off the metal detector in your jacket pocket rather than your luggage.

4) Wear a tried and tested belt -- or none at all

Belt buckles are near the top of the list of things that set off metal detectors when people walk through, so common advice is to take off your belt before going through the metal detector. Many airports in the US even require that belts be removed.

Of course, that means you need to shuffle through with your hands in your pockets, and then re-thread your belt through the loops of your trousers. That's time-wasting and, frankly, inelegant.

Consider a belt with a less metallic buckle for areas outside the US, or go old-school and wear a pair of braces (suspenders to our American readers). 

The best -- both for travel and for durability -- are the old style with loops for buttons that sit inside the waistband. Have your dry-cleaner sew in buttons for the braces the next time your suit goes in for cleaning. 

Avoid the metal clip-on braces, which often slip off -- and the point of the exercise is to reduce metal.

5) Try slip-on shoes

Business shoes often have metal in the sole or heel frame, which means you'll set off the metal detector and have to go back to put them through the x-ray. Again, many US airports also require everyone's shoes to be off anyway. 

Plus, lacing up shoes is another time-waster -- and a pain when you're standing at the tiny counter after the x-ray machine, trying to put yourself back together again. 

Slip-ons are useful here, despite the 1980s throwback feel to some styles. Find a pair you like -- we find Ecco shoes particularly comfortable and durable. 

Before you buy, check carefully for a metal frame in the sole or heel, ask the staff, and try them out the first time you fly wearing them. If they set off the detector, then relegate them to strictly on-the-ground wear only.

What are your favourite tips for a streamlined journey through security? Let us know in the comments section below.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 531

Have your liquids, aerosoles and gels already packed in an approved bag and have that in an easy to reach location in your bag so that you can pull it out with your laptop. Better still... avoid carrying any LAG's with you in the cabin!

Other than that... just go with the flow... and remember, just because you are travelling for business does not make you more important than any other travellers in the queue. It's amazing how many business travellers think they should be given priority and stand in the queue making noises and complaining because they have to wait with everyone else!

12 Jul 2011

Total posts 76

At security, put your bag through the X-Ray first, followed by your laptop and your liquids. I find that doing it that way means I can put my stuff away a lot faster, because I have got my bag organized before the laptop comes through. I know it sounds a little silly but I find it works. I also like to check-in as much as possible (really all that's ever in my hand luggage is my wallet, passport, phone, laptop and charger), not only does it mean I'm not trying to put 3 bags through security, waiting for them and holding everyone up trying to organize myself after security, there's the added benefit of not getting into a fist-fight over overhead locker space with other passengers once I actually get on the plane.


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