How to get through airport security, FAST!
Updated: May 6, 2021
I am a frequent traveller, and with travelling comes a lot of time spent at airports. In 2018 I travelled abroad every month, mostly by air, and taking account the transits and the return flights, it amounted to around 30 flights during the whole year. Not a lot to some, more than in a lifetime to others. Over time, I have become master at going through those annoying airport security checks, I never get patted down anymore and just need a few moments to go through. Of course they are necessary for the safety of us all, but they are annoying as hell. Good news is, you can save yourself a lot of time by knowing how to get through them effectively.
1. Look good
Don’t judge a book by its cover is sound advice but something that no one really follows, dress to impress on the other hand is something people should follow more. People are very judgemental, whether we want it or not. Subconsciously, we form our first impressions within moments and the largest factor contributing to this is hygiene and clothing. While the former should be something everyone follows (no one wants a stinkbug sitting next to them, especially on an airplane!), the second one needs some thought.
The better you look, the less trouble you will have. Clothing plays an important role for the security personnel about who looks suspicious and in need of extra check-ups and who does not. I know everyone wants to travel comfortably, but if you look like a slob or a slouch while travelling then your chances of getting suspicious or even rude behaviour from the security staff get higher. Businessmen in suits usually get treated with respect, even though they themselves might not be as polite. Even if you are not a businessman, dressing nice will get you a much better reaction from the security. Actually, everywhere but I digress.
While going to the US from Europe I was randomly assigned to go through extra security where they just searched through every nook and cranny of my bag. The guy next to me was your average looking joe, I had a blazer on. While the other guy was treated coldly at best leaving him to pack his stuff back by himself, they asked permission from me and gave their best to repack my back, in the end they even said, “Sorry, sir.” I did not even mind getting my stuff gone through because they treated me with respect, the other guy of course got into a furore. The only thing separating us was our clothing.
What about comfort, you ask. Well - put on smart-casual clothes, they should be comfy enough to spend cooped up for long hours in but at the same time good enough so that you don’t raise any red flags. Jackets and blazers need to go through the machine separately so it would be wise to wear something light, like a day-shirt or a nice sweater - no need to hassle with your extra clothing.
I, on the other hand, enjoy waring blazers in the airport. You can leave your passport and other stuff like headphones in the pocket and just throw it on the container. You can even leave your phone and wallet in its pockets so with one fell swoop you can get most of the items on your person on the container without having the empty your pockets one by one.
2. No metal allowed
Usually, people don’t like to be groped, especially if it is in a public place with a lot of people watching and the one doing the groping is far from your ideal of a date. You were doomed to this humiliation by a small beeping of a dumb machine. No, wait, it is entirely your own damn fault!
The metal detector does just as its name states, it detects metal, captain obvious, yet there are so many for whom the alarm goes off. Every time I go through security I get to see at least two that get searched. The easy fix - put away your metal.
Wear pants that don’t need a belt for or wear a belt that can get easily removed, oftentimes the buckle contains enough metal to set off the alarm. Remove all your jewelry, or better yet - don’t wear it to the airport. You can put everything away in your bag beforehand. Don’t wear anything with a lot of zippers. Leave your knives and other kitchen utensils at home. Remove your piercings!
If you get groped anyway, it might be because of your shoes - some have enough metal lining in them to set off the alarm. If you think that might be it, remove them and see how it goes. Wear shoes that are easily removable and not the hardest to put back on.
The number one thing to do here is to think ahead. We all know that if you have metal on you, you will get groped. While packing your bag, put everything metal in your carry-on, no need to get groped in public.
Drink all your liquids before going through security or throw them away. So often there are people standing by the metal detector, holding up the line by chugging down the last remains of water or other beverages. For heavens sake - you can buy anything you want in the tax-free shops and the tap-water in most airports is drinkable, you won’t die of thirst.
Everything(!) else should be in a small 100 ml/3.4 oz container in a 1 litre/1 quart bag. Check before going, I accidentally lost an expensive cream because it was slightly over the limit. They will remove everything exceeding the limit. Pack the small liquid somewhere on top of your carry-on if you go through security or pack it in your checked baggage. You can buy these small containers in shops or if you stay at the hotel they have the basic necessities in small bottles anyway, you can use them and take the half-used bottles with you to refill them if you want to take your own cremes, shampoos and gels with you. Reusing these bottles is environmentally friendly too!
4. Strange things
Do not take strange things into your carry-on unless absolutely necessary. Ever so often people get the opportunity to cringe or laugh as the security finds suspicious items in the luggage which turn out to be sex-toys. Why would you even need them at the airport or the plane?
Not to mention all the no-brainers. Chemicals, weapons/ammunition, explosives, knives, drugs - do not take them with you on an airplane. If it is an absolute necessity - get a permit with the correct authorities.
Try to look at your things with the eyes of a security guard. Would they seem odd to you if these things were owned by someone else? Is it absolutely necessary to take them with you?
About every tenth bag gets checked by a security guard after going through the scanner because the people were too lazy to remove liquids or electronics from their bag. This puts an extra strain on the security guards which means they have less resources to deal with everyone else. Oftentimes I see a line where the baggage gets separated and the security guard checks all the bags one by one. Be smarter than those people, you save time by not putting suspicious things in your carry-on and preparing beforehand and taking things that might cause alert separately.
I once got stopped and my bag inspected because of soap. I tried to test things out and take as few liquid items with me as possible so I would not need to get an extra ziplock bag and remove it while going through the checkpoint. This backfired as I got stopped and checked by the security because they detected unidentified biological matter. That much for getting through security easily. That was only one time, I have not had trouble with solid soap bars any other time.
So think ahead, see things through the eyes of a security guard and don’t take excessive stuff with you.
5. Electronic devices
As you will be required to put your tech into another container, you should leave them easily accessible. You can usually take your carry-on AND one extra item with you on the plane, meaning having your laptop in a separate bag or holder. Makes it way easier and takes up less time than scavenging through your bag to get the laptop from the bottom. The same goes from tablets and powerbanks as well. Put them in an easily accessible place - you’ll make life easier for everyone.
6. Wear backpacks
If you are every late to the airport, having anything with wheels is more of an obstruction to your movement - they get stuck everywhere. You can run and move around much faster with a backpack, easily putting it on the container and storing it away on the plane. You can get them into your hands from the airplane more easily as well, meaning you get off the plane faster and don’t hold everyone up.
How I go through security:
I arrive at the checkup ready and early. I have all my stuff in either my carry-on or blazer pockets. I get to where the containers are, I put my backpack in the first one, remove the liquid and send it on its way. I put the liquids and my laptop bag (and any other electronics, including phone and maybe wallet) in the second container. My coat and blazer go to the third one, including anything else I might have in my pocket. I go through the metal detector without getting groped, get my stuff as quickly as I removed them and continue my merry way. This is the final gate to grand adventures, make getting through a breeze.