12.06.2010

Airport Security

A guide with tips for easier traveling
The time for an increase in holiday travel is quickly approaching.  Many of us will take to the airlines to fly home and visit our family and friends for Christmas and the New Year.  This can make for some frustrating times if you are not prepared. 
The reason I am writing this is because I have spent the better part of ten years going through this circus tent for my job.  I fly airplanes but not for a commercial carrier.  I fly cargo behind the scenes.  I don’t have to worry about security lines and delays where I park my plane.  Its park the car, walk through the doors to the airplane and go.  I am the security measure.  That works great out of my home base in Columbus, Ohio, but the problem begins when I have to travel to a different base to cover for someone who is sick or on vacation.  When I hear this, a chill runs down my spine because I know I am going to have to go through the airport security conga line.
There are two different ways to travel, either check baggage or carry-on.  I personally love the carry-on method.  I can print my boarding pass from home and skip the check-in counter and go straight to the security line.  Where it becomes easy and efficient for me is how I prepare before getting to the airport.  We all know that we are going through a metal detector at some point.  So when I get dressed, I don’t wear anything that has metal on it or in it.  No belt, watch, shoes or hats for me.  I also don’t carry anything in my pockets such as nail clippers or a money clip.  There is a list of approved items you can bring on an aircraft, but there is an even longer list of items you cannot.  Check your local airport website for a list of approved items.  Wear clothes that fit properly and put the rest in your bag, even your wallet if you have a carry-on.  This way when it’s your turn to slide through security, all you have to do is remove your shoes and put them in one of those gray bins (hint: wear slip on shoes).

We all get frustrated when we arrive and see long waiting lines trying to get through security.  We automatically start to blame the TSA for this problem.  Now a little blame can be put on them, but the real problem is US, yes, you and I are to blame.  We don’t follow rules and we wear tons of items that set off the metal detectors.  How many people have you seen walk through the metal detector, set it off, have to go back through, empty EVERYTHING out of their pockets, just to walk through and have the same thing happen again because they left their watch on.  Or have some toiletries that are over the limit in size.
The standard size for a carry-on is 22” x 14” x 9” which is what I use.  I can fit all of my necessities I need for a week with no problem.  I do bring shampoos and other items that are now under the scrutiny of the TSA.  All liquids and gels can contain no more
than 3 ounces. 

 There is a security rule that you will see and it’s called the 3-1-1 rule; 3 ounces of liquid, in a 1 quart baggie, for 1 traveler.  
Now to get through security, they have to be in a container that is clearly labeled 3 ounces. 

You can’t just look at an almost empty bottle of shampoo and say it looks like 3 ounces; they will make you throw it away.  Many of you are probably saying there’s no way 3 ounces of anything are enough for me.  Well then you may be a candidate for checked baggage. 
Checked baggage is the way to go if you have a large bag or huge bottles of shampoo / conditioners and hair sprays.  You will also be at the mercy of the airline and possibly have to pay a checked baggage fee of $25 minimum for 1 way.  That is obviously $50 round trip.  Why not try to pack all of your items in a bag that you can carry-on and buy what you need at your destination.  You would probably spend no more than $20 for what you need and this in turn would save you $30.  The other issue with checked baggage is the wait you endure after you get off of the airplane.  The ramp attendants have to unload around 100 or more bags, stack them on the cart, drive to the correct belt and unload the bags to the belt.  Now the time comes to correctly identify your bag.  The most popular color of luggage, and I bet you’ll be shocked to know is black.  If you have black bag, you need to do something to make it stand out.  Personally I took some left over fabric strips and tied them all around my bag.  I used camouflage for my bag, but you can use anything that represents you.  This way it is easily identifiable to me. 
When we’re past security and at our gate, the waiting game begins and we wonder if our airplane will be on time.  Many factors end up determining whether or not an on-time departure and arrival will happen.  The biggest factor though is the weather.  Everyone thinks it’s just get in and go.  My favorite thing to see is when we are in Columbus and it is nice and sunny and we get delayed.  The person sitting next to me, calls their friend in Philadelphia (our destination) and is told it is sunny there.  They then get mad and go to the ticket counter and start complaining.  What neither of them know, is that there may be a line of severe thunderstorms on our route between Columbus and Philly.  Sure the plane can depart, but there is a chance you will be stuck in a holding pattern somewhere enroute.  Then the next thing I hear is, well can’t we just go around it.  The answer is yes if it’s an isolated storm or 2, but it’s a solid line of storms.  We can attempt to go through it, but the chances of severe turbulence are very real. 
This is where technology has its advantages.  Many of us have an iPhone or some way to get on the internet at the terminal.  There are a few apps that I use and recommend to pass the time.  The first is MyRadar.  It’s a free app that has current radar over the whole USA.  If you don’t have an iPhone, use weather.com on the internet.  This way you can see if there is the chance for a weather delay.  Another great tool to use is a flight tracker.  You can pay for them or again just use an internet browser and go to flightaware.com as it is the best and most accurate that there is.  It will allow you to see actual arrival times and where the airplane is and also gives an altitude and airspeed.  My wife loves to use this website when I fly.  I will literally just land the airplane; pull off the runway and my phone rings because she knows what time I will be on the ground.  Pass this website on to family and friends so they can monitor you enroute. 
If the inevitable comes and you are going to be stuck, try to relax.  Don’t get mad at the ticket counter agent, they have no control over delays.  Plus if you’re rude, the chances of them getting you on a different flight or helping you out will be greatly reduced.  Take a nap or take out the computer or iPhone/ipod touch and listen to some music or play a game.  LiveATC is a great app to be able to listen to live communications between Air Traffic Controllers and Pilots.  You can select from a bunch of different cities and listen to different controllers.  This is also free on the internet.  For me though, it’s time to play Angry Birds.  The most addicting game there is.  Whatever you choose, just remember it’s out of your control, so patience is the key.
On the other hand, you could always drive!!!
Steve

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