Bill Cutshall’s Weblog

September 2, 2008

A Little Advice for Getting Through Airport Security

Filed under: Big Help for Small Minds — billcutshall @ 11:01 am

I have been flying a lot lately and have quite a bit of practice getting through the airport security checkpoint line smoothly.  My fellow travelers, on average, don’t have the benefit of hundreds of previous screenings and can be expected to be a bit slower than I.  Some will statistically be a lot slower and will inevitably hear the dreaded phrase “Bag Check, Lane One” or worse, “Security Assist, Male”.  They will also be subject to the intense silent scorn and loathing of a hall filled with impatient people forced to wait in line.  Here are a few tips to help get you through airport security while drawing fewer invisible daggers.

The ID Check

  1. Have your ID and boarding pass out before you enter the security line.  Fumbling for them or digging through your bags once you reach the podium wastes everyone’s time.  Seriously, you knew what they were going to ask you for.  Why didn’t you have it ready?  I bet you wait until you get to the register at McDonald’s before deciding what you are going to order.
  2. While you are waiting in line, take inventory of all the metal items on your body.  This is a good time to begin removing them and placing them in your carry-on bag.  They don’t have to ride through the X-Ray machine in a tub, you know.
  3. Keep your boarding pass handy and on your person.  You will need it again when you go through the metal detector so don’t tuck it back into your luggage because you won’t have access to it when you head through the beeping arch.
  4. Don’t crowd the guy in front of you.  You will get through the line in the same amount of time whether you leave him 2 inches of personal space or 2 feet.

The Gray Trays

  1. You do not need to place each individual item in it’s own separate gray tray.  Your belt, shoes, cellphone, wallet, watch, pocket change, and iPod can all happily share a tub together.  Better yet, place all these pocket items in your carry-on bag and eliminate the trays entirely.
  2. Spreading your vast array of trays out like a freight train wastes table space.  Unstack tubs from your personal stack only after you fill it and if you only put a laptop, a magazine, or your wallet in it, stack another tub on top.
  3. The trays have a long side and a short side.  Don’t put them on the X-Ray conveyor longways.  You will have to wait an eternity to fit them all on the belt and so will everyone behind you.
  4. Your carry-on bag does not need to be in a tub.

The X-Ray Machine

  1. No variety of toy firearm should ever be packed in your carry-on luggage even if it is still in the box.  The same goes for fireworks.
  2. Don’t send a laptop or DVD player through the X-Ray machine inside a bag.  Rules are rules and it needs its own tub.
  3. Pack neatly.  Not only does this help the X-Ray officer identify what’s inside the bag more quickly, it greatly reduces the amount of time required to retrieve the contraband bottle of water, jumbo tube of toothpaste, and Swiss Army manicure set from your toiletries.
  4. If someone gives you a present, unwrap it before you pack it.  This is no place to be surprised by the contents of your bag.
  5. Be sure to unstack all your tubs before sending them through the machine.

The Metal Detector

  1. Take a last-minute inventory as the person in front of you goes through the detector.  Pat your pockets, check your belt, and don’t forget the sunglasses on your head.
  2. Have your boarding pass in your hand not in your bag.  Your bag is taking a different route to the other side.
  3. Don’t gamble with metal items.  If your belt buckle is metal, take it off.
  4. If the detector beeps, don’t get offended.  It isn’t broken and can’t have a personal grudge against you.  Just quietly follow instructions and then be on your way.
  5. Keep your hands out of your pockets.
  6. Your baby cannot ride through the metal detector in a stroller.  You will have to carry him/her.  The stroller will need to go through the X-Ray machine.
  7. Send your toddler through first.  It’s just like an escalator.  If they don’t follow you, you can’t easily go back to help them.


  1. Clear the X-Ray conveyor and THEN reassemble.  While you are fiddling with your shoes, the line is backing up.
  2. Buss your own boxes.  You unstacked them, you know how to stack them back up.  Don’t just leave them to clog the process.

Hopefully at least one bit of infomation here will help make your travel a slightly less stressful process, if not for you, then at least for the people in line behind you.


1 Comment »

  1. Great tips that should be standard for all. One thing I do that helps is stage my items in the order and reverse order needed to get through the x-ray. By putting my shoes, then laptop and bag on the belt in that order it makes it easier and faster to “re-assemble” on the other side. One other note – slip on shoes NO LACES!

    Comment by Brent Colescott — September 18, 2008 @ 10:30 pm | Reply

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