A few weeks ago, we featured some TSA hacks in our monthly newsletter. We got a lot of great feedback and decided to turn those brief TSA hacks into an entire post.
Before we get in to the TSA hacks and how you can save time going through security at the airport, we wanted to first examine some of the business issues causing the delays.
Why do we need TSA hacks?
- Busy summer travel season. Yes, it’s cyclical, and yes, it happens every year. So why is this year worse than ever? Well, also partially because more people are traveling than ever before due to historically low oil prices and historically low airline fares due to more route competition from low-cost carriers.
- TSA force-reduction of 10%. While we all like to pay less taxes, perhaps the timing of the force reduction wasn’t the best. (see #1)
- TSA Pre-Check less popular than predicted. Seriously, if you take more than 3 trips a year, buying in to Pre-Check pays for itself, considering even a moderate to low time value of money. But, it hasn’t really caught on. Some reasons for this include privacy concerns and cost. I would be really interested to know whether there’s a “breakeven” point per se around the Pre-Check program, and how many travelers are needed to be enrolled in that program to reach a steady state acceptable security flow in the non Pre-Check lines. Then TSA could actually run some targeted marketing campaigns to reach that registration goal.
All of these factors have led to some interesting responses throughout aviation. Check out this article about TSA wait times, why airlines are rebelling, and why airports are considering outsourcing their security to private industry (which we at tripchi think is an excellent idea). I’ve personally experienced some of the education/awareness conducted by airlines (which can also be seen as a CYA method) in my recent trips to SNA airport. Before each trip, I’ve been getting emails from the carriers (Spirit and Frontier) explaining that waits can be over two hours so get to DEN early (3 hours in advance).
A lot of people I talk to simply accept the longer wait times and feel quite helpless in the matter. This cannot be further from the truth!
Pay attention! TSA hacks
There are absolutely some TSA hacks that you can employ to put you back in control of your wait at security so that you can stay calm, and travel on.
- Go to a smaller, regional airport. Especially with the advent and route saturation of low-cost carriers, you can go to smaller airport in a big city that typically has fewer people and tends to be more efficient. Examples would be John Wayne Airport (SNA) or Long Beach Airport (LGB) as opposed to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), or San Jose International Airport (SJC) as opposed to San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
- Stay up to date. Monitor TSA security wait-times yourself here
- Contact your airport, and explain that you support augmenting the airport security through private industry
- Keep airline numbers handy. Be prepared to call your airline to rebook, and consider booking flights that allow flexible change policies. Ok, so this isn’t really a TSA hack, but it is a general travel hack that can help you at least manage longer wait times.
- Share your wait time and your frustration with TSA and fellow passengers with #IHateTheWait hashtag and website set up by Airlines for America (A4A)
- Join TSA Pre-Check, and consider Global Entry also if you’re a frequent international traveler. It really does pay for itself quickly (you can also join private programs like CLEAR for a higher fee), and you’ll soon forget about all the potential privacy concerns of giving all your biometric data to the government.
- Travel lighter. Recently at DEN Airport, TSA was piloting a program aimed at getting travelers with less stuff through faster. Officials set up a special lane for people only carrying backpacks or less. No strollers, rollers or duffles. In theory the line should have been shorter, but in actuality they were staffed less and there were too many people that opted to go in them. I was one of those poor souls. This TSA hack requires you to choose carefully.
Other than the TSA hacks we’ve rolled up for you above, the final parting wisdom is to just prepare for a wait, but do everything you can to speed up the process for all – by having your belts and shoes and laptops ready to go the moment you hit the security conveyor belt. If every traveler was just a little more mindful, and paid more attention to the rules of security, the process would inherently move faster.