Tag: TSA

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.

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NY Drivers licenses wont be valid for domestic travel in 2016

Photo: Ryan McFarland on Flickr

If you have a Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire or New York driver’s license you’ll need a second form of ID to get past TSA as soon as the start of next year.

Back at the end of December 2013, the Department of Homeland Security announced the arrival of the Real ID Act, which set federal security standards for government-issued IDs. About 70-80% of existing U.S. driver’s licenses already met those standards. But driver’s licenses from the four aforementioned states did not, and so were deemed “non-compliant.”

The act has been enforced in phases over the past couple years, and the government has now reached the final phase, which is the aircraft phase. Fliers who could previously breeze through security with their licenses from those non-compliant states will need to provide a second form of identification, such as a passport, once the Real ID Act is fully implemented and enforced. This will happen “no sooner than in 2016.” (All accepted ID options are listed here.)

New York media has been reporting that the NY state driver’s license will be rendered invalid as a form of ID for flying in 2016. But a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson informed us there were “no announcements” yet about when this final phase would be fully rolled out.

Official DOH literature says:

“DHS will ensure the public has ample advance notice before identification requirements for boarding aircraft change. That notice will include information on the process for individuals with a non-compliant driver’s license or identification card to be able to travel by aircraft.”

For now, it’s unclear exactly when this will happen or how people will be alerted. But if you’re from one of the non-compliant states and have any flights set for 2016, you might want to plan to bring a passport.

You can now review TSA checkpoints on Yelp

Photo by Dan Paluska

Travelers now have a designated public forum to tell the TSA how they *really* feel, and it comes in the form of Yelp.

In an excited blog post on its official site, Yelp announced a new agreement with the U.S. federal government that releases the kraken, allowing agencies — TSA included — to establish official pages on Yelp that will allow them to “read and respond to reviews, and incorporate that feedback into service improvements.” The important part here isn’t what the federal agencies can do, of course, but what we the people can do. And that’s leave reviews in a place where agencies will, supposedly, read them, rather than having to shout aimlessly into the social media abyss.

The arrangement extends far and wide, including national parks and social security offices, too.

TSA checkpoints haven’t racked up too many reviews yet, but if Yelp airport reviews are any indicator, there will be a lot of unloading happening on the TSA Yelp pages. The LAX TSA checkpoint has more than 70 reviews at the time of writing, with a two-star average. Here’s a taste of the reviews so far:

Bobi S.:

Those A**HOLES. I bought 3 bottles of very expensive wine from NAPA and had them in my suitcase wrapped up perfectly with a bunch of saran wrap and tissue paper. I got home and found my lock missing and a bottle of wine GONE with the wrappings thrown all over as well as my bottle of olive oil. JEEZ!

I DIDN’T KNOW YOU GUYS WERE SUCH POOR MOFOs that would stoop so low to STEAL A BOTTLE OF WINE AND OLIVE FROM MY BAG. AND on top of that they left me a notice saying “TO PROTECT YOU AND YOUR FELLOW PASSENGERS….” we had to check your bag.

Yeah. Protect me from over-imbibing my hundred dollar chardonnay and a bottle of olive oil?

YOU’RE DEFINITELY SAFELY PROTECTING EVERYONE DRINKING MY WINE IN THE BACK ROOM.

Matthew S.:

Throwing this out there-
My plane has never been bombed or hijacked.
I have never died from an aggressive or psychotic or extremist individual with a weapon while flying from LAX.
People rate TSA?  Dumb.  If you have the ability to rate, they probably did their job.
Know the rules, prepare yourself for the line, it’s really up to the flyers to keep the lines moving.

Chris G.:

Yes I got anal probed at TSA and everyone is either like ‘I hope he was cute’ or well I bet they didn’t stick their fingers THAT high. Seriously, I am then so grateful for decency and that my big Mexican drug baggie was high enough to be tucked behind some rectal curves. Asswipes.

Kc J.:

Got therough and to my gate in five min flat. Tip: pants without belt needed and flip flops…no jewelry (i put on my jewelry after and a change of clothes if you have a date waiting for you when you land) and use your phone as your e ticket..also pack carryons. Its jist.easier.amd quicker. Great!

Johnny N.:

The TSA at LAX is an island of mediocrity in a sea of horrendous government bureaucracy designed to trick the public into thinking they’re safe.

I’ve seen policies and basic rules broken left and right.  I’ve seen screeners on power trips over cowering unknowing passengers.  They almost managed to destroy my laptop, then laughed about it.

Turnover is high here, so you have a lot of workers who are bad because they’re not trained nor experienced.  Then you have a whole other population of screeners who are just plain bad at their jobs.

I wish I could give a 1/2 star for the federal security director (FSD) of LAX for actually emaling me and apologizing for the laptop incident.

If I could not fly out of LAX just to avoid the TSA here I would, but unfortunately LAX is one of those gateways to the world.  Best of luck to everyone.

TSA slammed for flawed maintenance of passenger screening equipment

The US Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has failed to manage the maintenance of its airport screening equipment to such a degree it does not know if they actually work properly, a report claims.

An audit by the Office of Inspector General concluded the safety and convenience of air travelers could be impacted.

The audit found that TSA officials have not notified airports of the requirements for proper maintenance of the screening machines.

“Without diligent oversight, including implementing adequate policies and procedures and ensuring it has complete, accurate and timely maintenance data for thousands of screening equipment units, TSA risks shortening equipment life and incurring costs to replace equipment,” the OIG audit said.

“More importantly, our prior work on airport passenger and baggage screening demonstrated that these other measures may be less effective at detecting dangerous items. Consequently, the safety of airline passengers and aircraft could be jeopardised.”

The report calls for proper reporting and verifying data from maintenance contractors.

The TSA has preventive and corrective maintenance contracts with firms worth $1.2 billion.

The machines are used at 450 airports nationwide handling up to 1.8 million air travelers daily.