Tag: security

How to avoid long TSA lines on your next flight

Around 450 passengers missed flights this weekend at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport Time

You’ve probably already heard horror stories about unusually long TSA security lines at airports, which may only get worse as the summer travel crush adds more travelers.

While we wait for the TSA to fix this (mainly by adding more employees and trying to keep the ones they have), here are some strategies to make sure you don’t miss your flight.

Get to the airport super early. If you hate waiting at airports this might be a good time to splurge for an airline lounge day pass. American, for example, charges $50 for aone-day pass.

Plan to arrive at the very least two hours before boarding for domestic, three to four hours for international. But for some airports, such as Miami when the cruise ships come in, even two hours might not be enough.

Perhaps the best advice is to sign up (now!) for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. I prefer Global Entry because it includes PreCheck and it’s good for five years for a $100 fee. Some premium credit cards, such as the Amex Platinum Card, reimburse the fee.

The only problem with PreCheck is that at some airports the special lines are only open for a few hours a day, again because of staffing shortages. But not only are the lines much shorter than regular TSA lines, you don’t have to take out your laptop and liquids, and you can leave your shoes and light jacket on.

Another hack: Buy priority access to TSA lines such as JetBlue’s “even more speed,” which gives you expedited lines through TSA.  United has a similar program called Premier Access, which starts at $15. Delta calls it “Sky Priority” and it’s available at select airports.

Fly from less busy airports. If you live on Long Island, fly from Islip rather than from JFK, for example.  Long Beach usually has shorter lines than LAX, and so on.

Try to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday when airports are less busy. Some times of the day (such as midday) are slower than during the morning and evening rush, so lines should be shorter.

If you really want to make your plane on time and you fly Delta, their VIP Select Service is offered at LAX, JFK, San Francisco, LaGuardia and Atlanta. For $250, on top of any Delta fare, you get escorted to the front of the TSA line and even get a transfer between flights via a private car service on the tarmac, plus other VIP perks such as Skyclub lounge access (book via Delta’s VIP phone line at 855-235-9847). American has a similar program but it’s only available to business- and first-class passengers.

Yan Baczkowski

From passive scanners to seamless corridors, airport security technology is on a rapid evolution to both increase accuracy and reduce inconvenience. The latest technology is one of our favorites: a scanner that actually determines the composition of materials rather than trying to see through them. Basically, it can tell the difference between a harmless object and a potentially dangerous prohibited item.

The Halo technology still uses X-rays to build the image, but it can process an object’s “material signature” to determine what it’s made of. Current technology can only mark whether an item is plastic, metal or organic, which leaves plenty open to interpretation. Marijuana and food, for example, are both organic, and there aren’t always obvious differences between explosive metallics and non-explosive metallics. Given those limitations, security screeners must physically inspect suspicious items. This new technology could theoretically eliminate many of these manual searches, as screeners could inspect items without opening the bag.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 3.09.05 PM

The Halo uses what’s known as X-ray crystallography, which is a technique that analyzes how a particular material scatters X-ray particles to determine its composition. By looking at the unique pattern that the particle scatter creates, the machine can then make determinations on what the object is made of. The Halo engineers then had to create a faster way of making this happen, and so deployed tubular X-ray beams which amplify a material’s signature.

In comments to The Engineer, Halo’s chief technology officer Paul Evans said:

“Our beam intersects the object, and concentrates the signal, so we can place various detectors inside the hollow beam, and see these unique patterns of diffracted radiation. Our aim is to ultimately produce a device that will not only produce signals, but also reconstruct three-dimensional images from these signals.”

These 3D images would then be matched against a library of materials, in order to make the determination of what materials are in any given bag.

The technology is also made to be automated, meaning that no humans would be needed to monitor the images. Halo will create an alert whenever a supsicious material is detected for further human inspection. So not only is there more accuracy and efficiency but there’s lower cost as well! Sounds like a rare win for airport security.

Don’t throw out your boarding pass. Hackers can use it to access your personal info

James Whatley/Flickr

After you hand the gate agent your boarding pass to scan and head back onto the plane, there’s a pretty good chance you quit paying attention to that stub in your hand. If you’re like me, your boarding pass will either end up on the ground or in the pocket of the seat in front of you. Big mistake.

The innocent looking lines and fuzzy pixels of the bar code actually contain a treasure trove of passenger information that could easily be exploited by shady characters who want access to your accounts. That’s exactly what Brian Krebs discovered in his blog Krebs on Security, after a reader did some sleuthing on a friend who’d posted a picture of his boarding pass on Facebook. Using a free online reader, the amateur detective was able to decode the bar code quickly.

The information uncovered included his friend’s name, phone number, frequent-flier number and flight information, all of which can be used to access an account and take effective control of it. According to Krebs, the information is also enough to make it easier for an attacker to reset the PIN number used to secure the account.

photo by Krebs on Security

Unfortunately, security is a problem throughout the travel industry, as illustrated when United — as well as both Trump and Hilton Hotels — were hacked earlier this year.