There’s nothing more aggravating than travel plans gone awry by no fault of your own. Unfortunately, travelers going through US airports this summer may be experiencing this more often than usual. The backlog is due to TSA cutbacks and staff shortages that are causing long lines and travel headaches in many airports across the country.
If your summer plans include a US airport, here are 7 things you can do to prevent or mitigate the frustration of long wait times.
Consider your itinerary
There are 22 airports in the USA that currently use private contractors instead of TSA personnel:
- Bert Mooney Airport (BTM), Butte, MT
- Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), Belgrade, MT
- Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport (STS), Santa, Rosa, CA
- Dawson Community Airport (GDV), Glendive, MT
- Glacier Park International Airport (FCA), Kalispell, MT
- Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC), Rochester, NY
- Havre City-County Airport (HVR), Havre, MT
- Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Jackson, WY
- Kansas City International Airport (MCI), Kansas City, MO
- Key West International Airport (EYW), Key West, FL
- L. M. Clayton Airport (OLF), Wolf Point, MT
- Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), Sanford, FL
- Portsmouth International Airport (PSM), Portsmouth, NH
- Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), Punta Gorda, FL
- Roswell International Air Center (ROW), Roswell, NM
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco, CA
- Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), Sarasota, FL
- Sidney-Richland Municipal Airport (SDY), Sidney, MT
- Sioux Falls Regional Airport (FSD), Sioux Falls, SD
- Tupelo Regional Airport (TUP), Tupelo, MS
- Wokal Field/Glasgow International Airport (GGW), Glasgow, MT
- Yellowstone Airport (WYS), West Yellowstone, MT
While they aren’t completely immune to travel conundrums, they are more likely to be operating as usual at the moment. Depending on your plans, adjusting your itinerary to go through these airports rather than bigger hubs can save you the hassle of long lines and endless wait times.
Use social media and airline websites
Aside from your TierOne Travel advisor, your best bet for information on wait times is to check social media and websites. Many airports are proactively publishing updates in real time that can help you navigate your way.
For more general information about peak times and traffic trends you can also tweet @AskTSA, the TSA’s official customer support account, during business hours.
Apps like GateGuru can also be useful in alerting you to wait times, delays, gate changes and more during your travel time.
Give yourself extra time
While the TSA has promised that extra staff is being trained and dispatched, there is no clear timeline on when this will alleviate the current problems. While it may seem excessive, we recommend you double the time that’s normally required to check in and have a plan for entertainment if you make it through sooner. In this case, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.
Keep your luggage size in check
If you’re one of many travelers who travels only with a carry-on bag nowadays, make sure it meets airline size requirements. Many carriers are now strictly enforcing a 22″ x 14″ x 9″ size limit, which many carry-on bags do not meet. Bigger bags can be subject to extra scrutiny and delays once you hit those security lines.
While you’re at it, make sure you also travel with a minimum of accessories like a belt and jewelry, and other items you need to remove for screening and pack items like liquids and laptops in packs that are easy to pull out for screening.
Check for alternatives
Consult airport maps or apps (GateGuru is useful here too) to know your security checkpoint options before you get to the airport. In many cases, you can identify one or two alternate checkpoints that you can use in case you spot a long line.
Bring good humor, patience…and entertainment
If despite your best effort you still get stuck in line, don’t sweat it. If you’ve given yourself plenty of time and you know you’re well prepared, bring a smile, patience and something to do to keep you and any travel companions entertained.