How To Save Time and Frustration in Airport Lines

Airport lines are the bane of travelers. You wait in the line for tickets, then you wait to wait in security lines, then you line up to get on the plane, to get to your seat, to get off the plane…. It feels like the better part of my life is spent lining up at the airport sometimes. But I’ve learned some secrets to the lines that have helped me and should help you, too.

Check in online. Most airlines now allow you to check in online the day of your flight or 24 hours beforehand. That reduces the cost to the airlines but more importantly it reduces your wait time. You won’t have to stand in line to do this at the airport and it’ll make your wait time for checking bags shorter. If you’ve just packed carry-on bags, you can go straight to the security lines which are sometimes in the opposite direction of the ticket counter which saves you more time walking. Time saved: 5-20 minutes.

Check your flight online. There are plenty of places to check your flight online and make sure it’s still on time. Most airline websites and airports also have this feature. The FAA even has a site where you can check delays across the flight system. While this isn’t a guarantee that your flight won’t take off on time, it can give you a heads up if your flight is canceled or if there are widespread problems that will probably delay your flight. I’ve actually seen it where somebody wasn’t even going to go to the airport until they saw that their flight had been delayed by 2 hours. They easily made it and saved the cost of a rebooking. Delays aren’t absolute though, and I’ve seen 90 minute delays become 30 minute delays, so don’t risk missing a flight. Time saved: 0-60 minutes.

Check airport facilities online. Many airports have implemented a feature where you can check the security lines and parking availability online. Some also allow you to sign up for alerts that will send you the approximate wait time on the day of your flight. The TSA’s site and others have similar features. Time saved: 0-20 minutes.

Cheat in the airport’s security line. A lot of people don’t realize this, but the security line you wait in is actually two lines. One is run by the airport, the other by the TSA. Why does this matter? Because the airport’s security line is, let’s just say, optional.

The airport’s security line is the one you wait in first. It extends from the last person in line up to the point where a TSA representative checks your ID. So why do I say they’re optional? Well, have you heard of the frequent flyer lines or the Fly Clear program? These allow you to get in a shortened line or skip the line altogether.

If you don’t want to go through the background checks and pay the costs of Fly Clear, you can become an instant frequent flyer. Most of the time nobody checks your ticket to see that you’re one of the elite. So you can just walk right on through. Time saved: 5-60 minutes.

Be prepared for the TSA line. Most people have gotten used to most of the rules, so things tend to progress fairly well. But every once in a while you get somebody will go through with belts, cellphones, keys, water bottles, etc. This delays them getting through, not to mention all the people behind them. Speed up your trip and ease frustration by doing it right the first time. Time saved: 5 minutes.

Be patient when boarding the plane. Some people get up and mob the front, though it doesn’t get them on the plane any sooner. In fact, it probably gets them even more stressed out. So just sit tight and relax. Down at the bottom of the ramp everybody stands in line again to get on the plane. Board later when most people have already boarded. You’ll be more relaxed and have a chance to walk around before you sit down. In effect, you’re gaining more personal time when you’re not sitting on the plane. Time saved: 10-15 minutes.

Relax and have a good attitude. This is the biggest thing you can do to ease your frustration. Have a good attitude and things will seem a lot easier, people friendlier and you can put your time to better use. Read, listen to music, walk around and explore, etc. Even the waiting can be made more bearable if you’ve got the right attitude and remember to relax. Frustration relieved: mucho.

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Posted on October 23, 2008, in Travel Skills and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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