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Everything You Need to Know Before Going Through Airport Security

Updated July 24, 2017 1.8m views15 items

Some airport security tips are obvious: don't bring a bunch of liquids with you; don't wear really complicated footwear because you'll need two minutes to remove it; take off your belt - you get the idea. The single most effective way to get through security faster, TSA Precheck, is also pretty well-known, and it prevents you from having to worry about your mystery fluids or your complicated footwear at all. But maybe there are some things you still don't know about airports, in general, and the security line, in particular. It's also always good to have a strong understanding of the kinds of people you might encounter at the airport.

Some airport security tips aren't very obvious, such as getting through the line faster by having a boring hairstyle and being certain never to whistle (more on that later). And some airport security facts that used to be true are now obsolete. For example, you may remember some notable items that were initially banned, such as knitting needles, without being aware of the items that are now permitted, such as knitting needles. If you are so inclined, along with your knitting needles, you may also bring some falcons and a chainsaw. If that sounds like something you might be into, read on!

  • Pick The Security Line With Only One Agent Monitoring It If You Want To Move Fast

    Pick The Security Line With Only One Agent Monitoring It If You Want To Move Fast
    Photo: Orange County Archives / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    According to investigative reporter Peter Greenberg, one surefire way to get through security is to avoid lines monitored by multiple agents. This, more than actual line length, will determine how quickly the line moves. Greenberg explains that lines in which several agents are watching one monitor indicate that one of them is in training, meaning that every single bag in the line may be inspected for a few minutes as part of the training process. Even a significantly longer line will probably move more quickly than one that gets searched in this way.

  • It's Possible To Fly Without ID

    It's Possible To Fly Without ID
    Photo: Steven Polunsky / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Well, you can't fly without being identifiable, but you can fly if you do possess ID and just happened to leave it at home. The TSA tries to make allowances for people who forget their identification and will give you a chance to give them enough personal information to confirm who you are. They'll also ask you some additional questions and potentially screen you more than most, but if they can determine that you are who you say you are, you can still fly without your ID.

  • The Scanners Don't Actually Expose You To Much Radiation

    The Scanners Don't Actually Expose You To Much Radiation
    Photo: meckert75 / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The FDA sets a limit on the allowable output from the scanners passengers are forced to go through. And, while airports formerly used X-rays, many now use a device called a millimeter wave unit. In any case, the national standard requires that an X-ray screening system deliver less radiation than four minutes of airline flight, and the TSA went beyond that standard and set its own to two minutes of flight. Incidentally, since existing on the Earth exposes you to ionizing radiation everyday anyway, you get the same dose from an X-ray scanner that you get from 42 minutes of daily life.

  • TSA Sort Of Doesn't Care About Drugs

    TSA Sort Of Doesn't Care About Drugs
    Photo: tanjila / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    It is obviously not advisable to test the TSA on this matter, but the Agency's goal is security, not looking for other contraband. Technically, officers are supposed to refer anything that looks like drugs to law enforcement, but the Agency also says outright on its website that officers don't specifically look for them. And then there's the story of rapper Freddie Gibbs, who allegedly went through security with marijuana in his checked luggage, leading the inspecting officer to leave him a note that just said "C'mon, son." That said, if you do plan on sneaking weed through security, you probably shouldn't conceal it inside of a grenade.