The Most Hated People You’ll See in Airport Security Lines

Airports are frustrating places. You have to jump through hoops (and shell out too much cash) to check or carry your bag. And you have to rely on confusing signage to find the right terminal and gate when your airline changes them multiple times. Plus, you can’t forget about all the people. You have to stand in line everywhere you go. The worst line of all? The airport security line.

When you’re waiting to get through the TSA security checkpoint, you’ll encounter every kind of frustrating traveler. One will cut in line in front of you. Another will forget to take his keys out of his pocket. And another will argue with the TSA agent over a bottle of water that’s clearly prohibited. Read on to learn about the most hated people you’ll see in airport security lines.

1. The traveler who won’t stop talking about how they’re missing their flight

Young female traveler in international airportd

Some travelers worry incessantly about missing their flight. | iStock.com/Encrier

As soon as you get in line, you’ll start hearing this traveler talking to anybody who will listen. Whether they’re traveling alone or with their entire family, this anxious traveler will complain nonstop. At check-in, they’re just worried that there’s a remote possibility they’ll miss their flight.

Then, while waiting in the airport security line, they have a sneaking suspicion that the line is really so slow that they’ll miss their flight. And finally, as they wait to load their items on the conveyor belt, they’re positive that the flight is already taking off without them — regardless of what time it is (or of the fact that they’ve only been in line for 15 minutes).

2. The traveler who complains nonstop about the wait

Tourist girl in international airport, waiting for her flight

Other travelers can’t stop complaining about the wait. | iStock.com/Encrier

The traveler who’s worried about missing an impending flight is annoying, but they’re not alone. Some travelers just want to grumble and grouse about the wait, even if they have nowhere to be anytime soon. This person complains about the wait in the parking garage. They grumble about the line at baggage check. Then they sigh about the crowds heading toward the security checkpoint. So you better believe that once they finally get into the security line, they’re going to gripe nonstop about the wait (even though everybody within hearing distance has been waiting, too).

3. The person who asks if they can skip in front of you — or cuts the line without asking

Empty check-in counter.

Some people in the airport security line want to cut in front of everyone else. | iStock.com/NanoStockk

We all know that airport security lines are serious business. And few of us would dare to ask others if we could cut in front of them, even if we’re convinced that we’ll miss our flight. But occasionally, you’ll encounter an entitled traveler who either asks if they can step in front of people or just cuts in line with no explanation. Can they skip to the front of the line? No way! There’s a reason that everybody else woke up early and got to the airport hours ahead of their departure time!

4. The rookie who doesn’t read the signs about following the lines

Airport of Paris

Some travelers don’t realize that they really have to read the signs at the airport. | iStock.com/Rrrainbow

At large airports, finding your way to the security checkpoint can get confusing. But once you get there, you can just follow the signs to figure out which line you need to stand in. Still, there’s always a painfully clueless traveler who either misses all the signs or just ignores them. Then, they end up in the wrong line. There are different lines for travelers who have enrolled in programs like TSA PreCheck and others for airlines’ elite frequent flyers. Most people don’t end up in those lines by mistake, but someone who aggressively ignores TSA signage just might.

5. The traveler who won’t tell his relatives to stop following him along the outside of the line

Security and passport control at airport

Other travelers drag out their goodbyes with their relatives. | iStock.com/MariusLtu

Many of us get emotional when saying goodbye to a relative we rarely see. But there’s really no excuse for travelers allowing their entire family to follow them on the outside of the barrier as they make their way through the snaking security line. It’s not like they can really continue any meaningful conversation that way. Plus, it just draws out an awkward and upsetting goodbye.

6. The traveler who won’t stop talking about the TSA’s shortcomings

Security control point at the Belgrade airport Nikola Tesla

Some travelers complain nonstop about the TSA. | iStock.com/PaulPrescott72

Another annoying person you’ll encounter in the airport security line? That jaded traveler who wants to tell everybody around them about all the TSA’s shortcomings. Sure, they may have some legitimate criticisms to make (or maybe they’re just repeating conspiracy theories.) The TSA’s problems and missteps have been discussed extensively, but this traveler doesn’t seem to realize that the airport security line isn’t the best place to contribute to that discussion.

7. The rookie who doesn’t have his ID ready for the TSA agent

Passenger Passing Through Security Check At Airport

Somebody in the airport security line has forgotten that the TSA agent will need to see their ID. | iStock.com/Monkeybusinessimages

Everybody — we repeat, everybody — knows that as you approach the TSA agent, you need to have your boarding pass and your ID at the ready. And if somebody doesn’t know that, they’ll see plenty of signs to remind them. But we’ve all seen that one traveler who somehow ignores or misses all of those signs, and approaches the TSA agent without their ID in hand. It may not cause that big of a delay, but it’s still a cringeworthy faux pas — one we don’t want to commit.

8. The disorganized traveler who can’t locate his passport

woman is showing her documents to check-in attendan

Some travelers lose track of their passports. | iStock.com/YakobchukOlena

Do you find it amazing that some people don’t know they need their driver’s license ready? Then you’ve probably never been in the airport security line behind a traveler who’s misplaced his passport. A messenger bag can only have so many sections, and a coat can only have so many pockets. But that doesn’t stop this disorganized traveler from managing to stash his passport somewhere that he just can’t find it when the TSA agent needs it.

9. The oblivious traveler who has PreCheck, but gets in the regular line anyway

people in the hall of the airport

Every once in a while, you’ll be in line behind somebody who forgot they had TSA PreCheck. | iStock.com/MariaKraynova

After waiting forever in the security line, you only have a couple of people in front of you. Then, the unimaginable happens: You overhear the TSA agent telling the annoying guy in front of you that he actually has TSA PreCheck and didn’t need to stand in this line after all. How does someone forget that they’ve registered and paid for TSA PreCheck? How do they miss the designation on their boarding pass? Why would you opt to stand in the slowest security line instead of taking advantage of the expedited screening? The world may never know.

10. The over-packer who needs five trays at the TSA checkpoint

Man Puts Digital Tablet Into Tray For Airport Security Check

Some travelers pack way too many things. | iStock.com/Monkeybusinessimages

Once you’ve handed the TSA agent your boarding pass and ID, you’d think you’re in the home stretch. But things only get worse from here. Much worse. Brace yourself if you get stuck behind the over-packer. You can spot this traveler from a mile away by their overstuffed rolling bag and impressively large tote bag. Each must have taken an hour to pack. And this traveler will need about that amount of time again to retrieve their laptop and overstuffed plastic bag of liquids before they can heave the bag onto the conveyor belt and proceed with the screening.

11. The tech addict with a half-dozen devices

Man Checking Mobile Is Charged At Airport Security Check

Some pack an inexplicable number of phones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets. | iStock.com/Monkeybusinessimages

When you remove your electronic devices from your bag, you’ll realize that normal people typically just have a laptop and a smartphone (and sometimes a tablet for the kids.) But the tech addict can’t quickly whip out his devices like everybody else. He has two phones stashed in one jacket pocket and another phone in the other. He has a laptop and two tablets. Plus, he has a smartwatch. He decides to take them all out to pile them into a bin. And everything is tangled up in a knot of earbuds and chargers.

12. The fashionista who wears shoes that are impossible to take off

Man Putting Shoes Into Tray For Airport Security Check

Somebody always forgets to wear practical shoes. | iStock.com/Monkeybusinessimages

One of the cardinal rules of getting through the security checkpoint quickly is to wear shoes that are easy to take off and put back on. (The TSA even recommends wearing “easily removable shoes.”) But every once in a while, you’ll get stuck behind someone who definitely puts form before function. It could be a pair of combat boots that take 15 minutes to unlace — for someone not in official military dress. Or perhaps a pair of high-heeled booties on someone who doesn’t have the balance to take them off and on easily. Either way, you’ll definitely wish they were wearing slip-ons instead.

13. The traveler who has a cold and gave up on hygiene a long time ago

Depressed traveler waiting at airport, flights delays and cancellations

Some travelers can’t keep their colds to themselves. | iStock.com/NicoElNino

We’ve all caught on to some of the germiest spots on airplanes and in airports. And most of us know that when we need to cough or sneeze, it’s probably best to contain it and avoid adding more germs to the mix. But especially during flu season, you’ll definitely encounter a traveler or two who’s caught a cold and has no interest in preventing everybody in their vicinity from catching it, too.

They may sneeze into their hand right before picking up a bin. Perhaps they cough right toward the conveyor belt. Maybe they drop used tissues all over the floor in front of you. Sure, you probably wouldn’t cancel your trip just because you caught a cold, but nobody wants to be near someone who can’t take basic precautions to contain their germs.

14. The parents who can’t seem to get that stroller to fold up

Passengers pass the inspection of security service

Some travelers struggle with strollers at security. | iStock.com/Tanyss

Flying with a child (or multiple children) is no walk in the park. But we can’t be the only ones who secretly hope that we don’t get stuck in line behind the harried parents who can’t seem to both fold up the stroller and wrangle their kids at the same time. The stroller looks deceptively simple, but we can’t say the same for that maneuver where a parent holds a squirming kid in one arm and wrestles their bags onto the conveyor belt with the other. Even though we feel bad for them, we still always hope that we don’t end up in line behind these travelers. 

15. The rookie who doesn’t remember to take off his belt

Passengers going through airport security check

Some travelers always forget to take off their belts. | iStock.com/Monkeybusinessimages

Many people wear belts. However, most know that when they get to the TSA checkpoint, they’ll need to take their belt off. Unfortunately, there’s always at least one traveler who’s oblivious. If you’re lucky, this guy might hear a TSA agent reminding everyone to remove their shoes, belts, and jackets and actually comply. But if not, he’ll hold up the entire line walking into the metal detector wearing his belt, and only then remove it to get through the checkpoint. (Bonus points if he also has to take off his watch.)

16. The traveler who doesn’t remember to empty his pockets

Passengers in the TSA line in an airport

Some travelers in the airport security line can’t remember to empty their pockets. | iStock.com/Martince2

Another thing the TSA expects you to do before going through the body scanner or metal detector? Empty your pockets. You know this. And the guy behind you knows this. And the guy behind him probably knows it, too. But the one person who didn’t get the memo? (Or read the sign? Or listen to the TSA agent barking out the rules at everyone?) The guy in front of you. It’s not until after he goes through the body scanner that he remembers he has his keys, his phone, a week’s worth of receipts, and three lip balms in his pockets.

17. The over-hydrator with a giant bottle of water in tow

Passenger with passports and boarding pass and pink baggage

Somebody always tries to convince the TSA to let them carry a giant bottle of water. | iStock.com/Travnikovstudio

As you make your way through security, all you want is for everybody who’s ahead of you to go through quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, there’s no chance of that happening if you end up in line behind someone with a super-sized bottle of water. You can take food through airport security, but you can’t take a big bottle of water. It’s not difficult to imagine that somebody could forget about a stray bottle of water in their backpack. But this traveler very intentionally packed a huge bottle of water — and wants to put up a fight with the TSA agent who tells them they can’t carry it through.

18. The traveler who forgot that he had a weapon

Traveler pulling suitcase

People sometimes forget that they’ve packed a weapon. | iStock.com/Fizkes

If you know anything about the TSA, you know that the agency doesn’t let travelers carry anything remotely resembling a weapon through the security checkpoint. But someone in the airport security line always manages to pack something that qualifies as a weapon, without even realizing it. He may have something as tame as a small pocket knife, but he could also have something pretty scary. Just keep your distance and hope he doesn’t hold up the line for too long.

19. The person who just can’t seem to get themselves back together

Passenger Puts Liquids Into Bag At Airport Security Check

Some travelers have a tough time gathering their possessions. | iStock.com/Monkeybusinessimages

So you’ve successfully made it through the metal detector or body scanner, and the TSA agent has given you the go-ahead to retrieve your belongings. But even your dash to reassemble your possessions — and recover some of your dignity — may get slowed down by one of the other travelers in the security line.

This final type of traveler just can’t seem to get things together once their bins emerge from the scanner. Maybe they’re putting their shoes on the wrong feet. Perhaps their plastic bag of liquids managed to explode. Or maybe they’re just trying to finish a game of Candy Crush before they put their jacket back on.

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