The Science of Getting Through a Security Checkpoint

Hand-luggage inspection machine at an airport.
Image via Wikipedia

In the recent movie, Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character, the frequent traveller, gives some important tips on how to get through a security checkpoint. Here is some sound advice from us on the subject. The airport checkpoint is an assembly line of sorts, with each person doing the same series of repetitive tasks before moving on.

  1. Empty your pockets in advance…Have a pocket or crevice in your bag to put your metal…your keys, cell phone, etc into. The airport will give you little bowls to put these things in, but having them out of the way early will speed things up.
  2. You are going to take your shoes off and walk barefoot on a likely none-to-clean floor. This means you want to not only have shoes that are easy to get on and off but take care on what socks you have on.
  3. Start taking your outerwear off long before you get to the checkpoint. If you have layers and room in your carry-on, put some of those layers away in advance.
  4. If you are carrying a laptop, have it in a sleeve. There are only a few checkpoint-friendly cases out there that don’t require you to remove the computer from its bag. The cheapest is a sleeve, which has no pockets for any accessories. It can be slid into another bag or case. But it is more secure than leaving your laptop alone in a TSA provided bin. Or look into one of those TSA-checkpoint friendly cases.
  5. Pack your carry-on as neatly as possible. Any wiring should be bundled up neatly, and preferably separated from electronic devices. This ensures it will not confuse the agent watching the x-ray and delay your transit.
  6. In regards to the liquid rules, even years after this policy has been in place, people are still confused about it. Take one-quart sized zip-top bag, fill it with liquid objects less than 3oz. Each person gets one bag. Remember, this is liquid. People who are putting medications and other solid objects in these bags are only losing space for more liquid. Try to pack the bag on top of your carry-on or in an outer pocket. Some airports ask you to take it out and separate it.
  7. Have your ID and boarding pass out. Separate your ID from your wallet. The TSA will ask you to do it anyway.
  8. Remain calm, be friendly. The screening experience varies greatly from time to time. Different TSA agents, different policies, different airports. You have to go with the flow if you want to make your flight.