Sorry, This TSA Checkpoint Is Closed — Reader Mistake Story

Apr 25, 2017

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about all the positive ways award travel has affected their lives. That being said, while I love hearing about your successes, I think there’s also a lot we can learn by sharing our mistakes, and I’m calling on readers to send in your most egregious and woeful travel failures.

From time to time I’ll pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy (and commiserate with). If you’re interested, email your story to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Please offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what precautions the rest of us can take to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, I’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure (or make up for any blunders from the last one).

Recently, I posted a story from Matt, who woke up to an unfortunate surprise while traveling by train through Europe. Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Hayden, who learned the hard way that airport security keeps its own hours. Here’s what he had to say:

Long security lines aren’t the only ones you need to worry about. Photo by Scott Olson via Getty Images.

Last year, my wife was working in Boston while I worked in the Finger Lakes region. The non-stop American Airlines flight between Syracuse and Boston was our best option for getting between the two cities, so we signed her up for an AAdvantage credit card that was offering a bonus of 50,000 miles at the time. The Syracuse to Boston route is under 500 miles (so it qualifies for the 7,500-mile awards), and Syracuse has sometimes been eligible for reduced mileage awards, so those miles went a long way. However, it wasn’t always a smooth trip.

At the end of one of her visits to Syracuse last fall, we received a text alert that her flight was delayed for several hours. The same thing had happened on a previous trip, and she wasn’t keen to repeat the experience of waiting around for the incoming Boston flight to arrive. I kept an eye on her itinerary, and when I saw that the inbound flight wasn’t scheduled to leave Boston until after 10 pm, I figured we had time for dinner with friends.

When we arrived at the Syracuse airport at 10 pm, we found the TSA security checkpoint completely locked down. There was no one there. Even though we had arrived at the airport ninety minutes before the rescheduled departure time, there was no way for her to access the boarding area. It was only then that I looked up the hours for the TSA in Syracuse and learned that they close at 9 pm.

Because my wife needed to be at work the next day, we immediately started the late drive from Syracuse to Boston. The five hours on the road through the night was not ideal, but at least she made it on time to work the next day. The moral of the story is that you should confirm the TSA checkpoint hours before arriving late to a delayed flight!

Lengthy security lines are a common concern, but most travelers probably don’t consider the possibility of arriving at the airport to find no security line at all. The reality is that while some airports offer 24-hour screening, most do not (including many major facilities like DFW and SFO). TSA checkpoints close surprisingly early at some smaller airports, and airline check-in counters may also close well before the last scheduled departure. Make sure you know the hours for both if you’re booked on a later flight.

Airlines expect you to check in and clear security based on your originally scheduled departure even when your flight is delayed. You can take a gamble and show up according to your updated departure time, but keep in mind that those times are estimates. Delays can evaporate just as quickly as they materialize, so even when you’re not worried about the airport shutting down, you could still lose your seat if you’re not at the gate.

Female passenger waiting for her flight.
Better to arrive early and wait longer than miss your flight altogether. Image courtesy of kieferpix via Getty Images.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Hayden for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image courtesy of tbradford via Getty Images.

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