These days, the effort and time that it takes to get on an airplane is just as dreaded, if not more, than actually enduring a few hours crammed into tiny seats with a few hundred other people. Two hours ahead of takeoff is the suggested time for travelers to arrive at the airport for a domestic flight. Two hours — that’s enough time to watch a movie and still have an extra thirty minutes to spare for brewing some coffee, using the bathroom, and doing some newsstand browsing.
The main reason for all this padding time? Security delays that can get pretty out of hand, particularly around holidays. (Looking at your hour and a half-plus Christmastime lines, JFK.) The good news is that TSA knows how frustrated we are. It recently began to accept proposals for shortening waiting times through security checkpoints, without diminishing safety assurances, with a $15,000 reward for adequate improvements. We thought we’d jump in with 10 ideas of our own that we’d love to see happen — some more practical than others, admittedly. Feel free to chime in with your own!
1. Designated security times: Instead of doing a whole lot of math to figure out when you’re likely to reach your gate, what if you had a specific time to reach security? In addition to boarding and departure times, your ticket could show a third time for reporting to security. This could potentially alleviate the problems of passengers arriving either too early or too late for their flight.
2. Baggage check when you print your boarding pass: Clearing your laptop, toiletries, and seemingly undressing for a twelve-second security procedure is, quite frankly, a waste of time. Instead, let’s organize a two-part system. Part one: Upon printing your boarding pass, you undergo a preliminary security check for your baggage — say at the weighing station. Part two consists of a metal detector screening to ensure you’re not smuggling a set of Cutco knives in your pocket.
3. Family/Carpool lanes: Families, or groups of three or more, go through a separate security line together. This can hopefully ease the stresses of frantic business and single travelers, along with the ardent, parental problem of prying out a Thomas The Tank Engine toy to go through a scanner.
4. Adopt the Israeli system: No nation faces a greater terrorist rest than Israel; yet, Israel has a security system less strenuous than Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport. How do they do it? They rely on mild forms of interrogation. Highly trained agents question departing passengers before entering security queues. If a passenger comes off as suspicious, agents interrogate more thoroughly.
5. Pre-airport security… security: Another feature of the Israeli system involves a security check before entering the airport. This includes a car examination or pseudo-suspicion analysis to gauge which passengers could be dangerous before they even enter the airport.
6. Frequent flyers and airport memberships go through a pre-check like line: Those holding some form of airline membership should receive perks like smooth sailing through security checkpoints.
7. Bag-specific security: Passengers carrying only a purse go through one line, and passengers with a backpack go through another. Passengers with carry-ons as heavy as a ten-year-old child definitely go through their own line, too.
8. Opt for a background check upon booking your flight: This is a pretty straightforward one, but the idea is to let travelers choose to submit to a background check upon booking their flight, to receive lighter security measures at the airport.
9. Baggy stations: Slightly ridiculous but plenty practical. A baggy station provides passengers with clear, Ziploc bags to store not only their toiletries but to also clear their pockets before entering security lines. Hopefully, this will prevent passengers from unnecessary bomb-swabs just because a stream of shaving cream spurted in their suitcase.
10. Just reduce security measures: Since it’s possible to build a weapon out of materials available for purchase at any airport shop, maybe it’s time we accepted that these incidents aren’t 100% preventable, and we should return to the days of just a metal detector.