With near record volumes of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines this summer, we thought now might be a good time to give you some of our tips and tricks for whizzing through the airport.
You would think everyone knows this tip, but look at the check-in lines next time you are at the airport. If you don’t want to be in one of these lines, make sure you check-in and print your boarding pass you’re your computer before you head out to the airport.
The added advantage of online check-in is that some airlines (like Southwest Airlines) board their planes according to the time when the boarding pass was issued. This means if you checked in 24 hours ahead of your flight’s departure, there is a good chance that you will be among the first to board.
Check your Bags at the Curb
Why stand in a long line for baggage check inside the airport when you can offload your luggage outside? Not only are lines normally non-existent at curbside checked baggage stations, but the service is free.
Be Strategic About Your Seat Choice
Airlines, like Virgin-Atlantic, typically board economy passengers from the back of the plane first – so securing a seat in the rear could be advantageous. However if you are more interested in disembarking quickly once you land (like contestants on the Amazing Race), a seat at the front of the plane is the way to go.
Get Organized for Security
Unfortunately security lines cannot be avoided and you definitely need to factor in the time you need to clear security. However, being organized is a good way to get your own belongings through quickly. For instance put your shoes, laptop, and laptop bag through the X-ray machine in that order. This way you can put your shoes on while waiting for your other items to be scanned and, once your laptop comes through the X-ray machine, you can pick it up and be ready to place it into its bag.
Make Your Luggage Stand Out
Waiting for your checked luggage to come out onto the airport conveyer belt (once at your destination) is another unavoidable part of air travel. However you can speed up the process by making your luggage easily identifiable from the gazillion other black wheel bags. Think about using bright colored stickers or tying a ribbon to the handle of your bag. This will also help ensure that someone else doesn’t accidentally walk off with it!
Pay for Special Security and Immigration Programs
If you are willing to pay to ease the wait at TSA security and U.S. Customs, there are a number of services that can help you out:
- Global Entry: This costs $100 and you have to interview in advance with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. However, if you are cleared, you get 5 years of by-passing immigration lines by going to a special kiosk. Currently this is in more than 30 airports throughout the U.S. However if you have achieved a certain status with some airlines (like United Airlines), or credit card companies (like American Express), this fee is reimbursed.
- Clear: This service speeds you through airport security for a cost of $179 per year for the family. But it is only in a couple of markets right now (Denver, Orlando, San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth and Westchester NY).
- TSA PreCheck: This service is available at over a dozen airports through a select number of airlines, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Delta Air Lines.
- Airline Priority: Some airlines (like US Airways) give you the ability to pay for airport perks like priority check-in, security and boarding.