10 ways to get through airport security faster

Apr 17, 2022

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Getting through airport security can be one of the most frustrating aspects of travel — especially as travelers continue to return to the skies after being grounded for nearly two years by the pandemic. Growing crowds of passengers mean longer TSA security checkpoint wait times, especially at peak travel times.

Don’t be surprised to see long lines if you have flights coming up. It would be wise to check your airport’s website for security checkpoint wait times and get there earlier than usual, especially if you’re checking bags. I’m fortunate that my home airport, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), has this information on its homepage — and it’s pretty accurate.

Bur airport security doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. By following our tips below, you’ll fly through airport security faster.

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In This Post

Get airline elite status

Your A-List status on Southwest Airlines gets you elite access to airport security checkpoints. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

One of the quickest ways to get expedited security checkpoint access is airline elite status. This benefit is usually — but not always — extended to any companions traveling with the elite member, so it can’t hurt to try and bring them along with you. Passengers with elite status from the programs below are eligible for this benefit. Note that access is not available at every airport, so check with your airline in advance.

  • Alaska Airlines: MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K and MVP 100K members.
  • American Airlines: AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro and AAdvantage Executive Platinum members.
  • Delta Air Lines: Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion and Diamond Medallion members.
  • JetBlue: TrueBlue Mosaic and Mosaic+ members.
  • Southwest Airlines: A-List and A-List Preferred members.
  • United Airlines: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members.

If you don’t currently have elite status with any airline, don’t fret — gaining elite status can be quick (and easy). Several airline cobranded credit cards offer elite status through points-earning sign-up bonuses.

Related: The best airline credit cards of April 2022

Sign up for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

(Photo by Arne Beruldsen/Shutterstock)

Global Entry (which includes TSA PreCheck) is an incredibly useful tool for the frequent flyer since it allows you to clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection in minutes after a trip abroad. It costs $100 for five years.

With TSA PreCheck, you’ll get access to an expedited security line and reduced security measures. You can leave your shoes, belt and a light jacket on, and you can leave your laptop and 3-1-1 liquids in your bag. PreCheck is available at more than 200 airports with 80 airlines. It costs $85 for five years.

If you don’t have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, take out your wallet and look at your cards. Those that will cover one program’s enrollment fees include The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Citi Prestige® Card (no longer open for new applications) and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. 

Related: Global Entry vs. TSA PreCheck: Which is better?

Fly premium class

This United Polaris international business-class seat comes with priority security checkpoint access. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Flying in a first- or business-class cabin not only comes with an upgraded inflight experience, but it also gets you priority access to expedited airport security checkpoint lines. So that United Airlines Polaris international business-class seat can help you shave precious minutes off wait times at TSA checkpoints.

Airlines offering this perk include:

  • Alaska: First-class passengers.
  • American: Priority AAccess, business-class and first-class passengers.
  • Delta: SkyPriority, Delta One and first-class passengers.
  • JetBlue: Even More Space and Mint passengers.
  • Southwest: Business Select passengers.
  • United: Premier Access, business-class and first-class passengers.

Related: The best premium cabin seats in the US and how to book them

Get Clear expedited security

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Clear is one of the latest innovative programs created to expedite the security screening process, and is currently located in more than 50 airports. It’s a biometric identity platform that uses fingerprint and iris scanning to speed up the identification process at airport security checkpoints.

The Clear app also comes with Health Pass, which lets you manage your COVID-19 information on your smartphone, from testing to vaccination. The new Home to Gate feature integrates traffic data, security screening and terminal walking times to help you decide exactly when to leave and arrive at your gate on time.

Related: Clear expedited airport security program — is it worth it?

My Clear membership, coupled with Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, gets me through security lines in five minutes or less at BWI Marshall Airport, which can have long lines at peak times. A Clear membership will run you $189 a year; you can add a family member for $50 and children under 18 are free. You can currently test it out free for two months.

But there are ways to cut the cost — or get it for free. If you’re a Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus member (joining those loyalty programs is free), you pay only $119 a year with no status and $109 if you’re a silver, gold or platinum member.

Delta Diamond Medallion and United 1K members get Clear for free. The Amex Platinum Card now comes with a Clear membership credit of up to $189 in the form of statement credits. And the American Express® Green Card comes with a $100 Clear credit.

The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Should you get TSA PreCheck or Clear — or both?

Dress appropriately

Senior editor Benét Wilson swears by her Kizik athletic shoes. (Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Regular travelers know there’s always that one person who holds up the line because they have to untie their shoes, unzip cumbersome boots, take off their jewelry, remove belts and coins from their pockets and more. But you can save time by using common sense when you pick out what shoes you choose to wear at the airport.

Wear shoes that you can quickly remove and then put back on, like my go-to, hands-free Kizik athletic shoes, which are perfect for a TSA checkpoint. Wear a jacket with big pockets so that after passing through security, you can quickly throw your phone, wallet and passport in it before grabbing the rest of your belongings.

If you’re not in the PreCheck line, take out your laptop or tablet and your 3-1-1 liquids bag, remove your jacket and shoes and make sure that your belt and metal jewelry is off and those coins are out of your pocket before going through the metal detector.

Related: What are the best travel shoes? TPG staff members share their must-haves

Know the rules

Your time at an airport security checkpoint can be shorter if you dress appropriately. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Remember that a laptop must be removed from its case and placed in its own bin unless you’re in a PreCheck lane. Make sure any liquids in your carry-on are in a clear plastic bag (here are the rules for the TSA’s 3-1-1 policy). Throw away any plastic bottles with liquid in them and empty your reusable bottle before going through the security line. If there’s a bottle with liquid in your bag, it’ll have to be rescreened — adding a lot of time to the security screening process.

Finally, when you’re through the metal detectors, collect your belongings from the belt as quickly as possible and reassemble yourself away from the screening area. The quicker you take your belongings off the belt, the quicker everyone else can move through the line.

Related: Seattle is testing a new system that lets travelers make a reservation at the TSA checkpoint

Monitor wait times at your airport

(Screenshot from BWI Marshall Airport)

Need to track airport checkpoint wait times? There are apps for that. Some of my favorites include MiFlight,  App in the Air,  Kayak and MyTSA. These apps allow you to keep an eye on the status of the line several hours before your scheduled departure time and make a better-informed decision on when to arrive. Many airports also have this information on their website.

Related: 28 essential travel apps every traveler needs

Check your bag

Checking a bag could save you time at airport checkpoints. (Photo by izusek/Getty Images)

Check your bag at the counter to reduce security wait times, if possible. Most airlines — except for Southwest — charge a fee to check a bag. As a result, more people are flying with just a carry-on to save money, which, in turn, slows down the screening process.

If you don’t want to pay a fee to check your bag, check out these credit cards that offer free checked baggage. Additionally, cards such as the Amex Platinum and the Citi Prestige offer an annual travel credit that can be applied toward checked bag fees.

Related: 9 great suitcases worth the checked bag fee

Be friendly

BWI Concourse A
(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Although some TSA agents may not be the friendliest, it can’t hurt to be nice. They have a tough job, made even tougher with growing crowds and short staffing, so have some sympathy. Whether you’re cutting it close for your flight or traveling with small children and need some help, a TSA agent might just send you through the priority line. It can’t hurt to ask!

Fly at the right time

Passengers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) wait in line to be screened at a TSA checkpoint in May 2020. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Try not to travel at a time when the security checkpoints will look like the above photo. We’re always hearing horror stories of airport lines around major holidays. But as passengers come back after a pandemic-induced travel moratorium, lines are getting longer at the nation’s airports during peak times.

Personally I’m a big fan of early morning flights. Avoid choosing flights that depart at peak travel times, such as Friday or Sunday between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., as business travelers are heading home from their work weeks and leisure travelers are heading out for weekend trips.

Related: This summer may be the perfect storm for long airport security lines — here’s how to avoid them

Bottom line

Although going to the airport right now may seem like all gloom and doom, there are several options to get through security faster than your traveling peers. Signing up for TSA PreCheck is your first step to expedited security, but there are also other ways you can go about getting through the detectors quicker than normal, including just being in the know on what you can and cannot do.

Featured photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images.

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