Getting through the airport these days isn’t easy. In fact, between taking off your shoes, belt and pulling apart your personal items to get at liquids or a laptop, it can feel all a bit too personal for a machine, if you know what I mean.
For more than 10 years travelers in the United States have been subjected to increased security regulations. Remember the colored homeland security threat levels? Living in DC we used to joke that it never dropped below yellow, or elevated. At one point it seemed like the rules changed every time I flew and I never knew which items were allowed, what needed to be pulled out of my luggage or what was safe to go through. The public outcry, especially as the years passed since 9-11 grew.
Last year when TSA came out with the full body scanners, the public outcry was so loud that they were forced to put together a national education campaign to help “re-educate” the public about the scanners and their privacy. While I will applaud them for their efforts to educate and inform the public, it seemed a bit disingenuous to say that these scanners would provide increased safety after certain YouTube videos surfaced of people waking through with potential weapons.
Needless to say, I almost always opt-out of the body scanners, choosing instead for a full pat down. Sure, it is a lot more invasive than walking through a machine, but it is my little way of standing in protest against these body scanner machines. Though the TSA personnel is always professional and friendly, the pat down is a bit of a pain and certainly takes more time. So why do it? I do it because I want their opt-out numbers to increase so that maybe somewhere a politician will think twice about funding what some have called security theater.
Learning the Steps
I can’t say that I know all the steps to get through airport security with my dignity and luggage intact, but I’ve learned a few things over the years. First, always treat the security personnel, no matter where you are, with respect. Yelling or getting angry does you no good, in fact it is likely to heighten the situation. I saw an American get so frustrated in Turkey that she started screaming at the luggage checker. Guess who was last on the plane?
Second, know the rules before you show up, especially if you are flying into the US or Europe from another region. Many overseas airport personnel have had basic training to perform additional security checks for passengers flying into the U.S., but that doesn’t mean they will know everything. Add a language barrier and you could be saying good bye not only to you contact solution, but your smoothie and medication as well. Be prepared to check or through questionable items out. If you choose to opt-out of the full body scanners, plan a little extra time into your pre-flight routine, especially if it is your first time through. It doesn’t take that much longer, but give yourself an extra 5 minutes so you don’t feel rush and don’t foul out at rule number one.
What are your thoughts on airport security? What are your tips for making traveling by air a breeze?