Want to Avoid Long Lines at the Airport? TSA Can Help

Most of us know someone who has missed a flight because of long security lines at the airport. Getting through security is one of the reasons you’re instructed to arrive at the airport hours ahead of your departure time, which can be a real hassle.

But contrary to popular belief, the Transportation Security Administration does not just exist to make your life more aggravating by making you hop around barefoot as they steal your water bottles. In fact, they want to help you speed through the process. Here’s how the TSA is trying to cut down on customer wait times at the airport.

Minimize your wait from the get-go

airport security

Avoid traveling during peak times. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

There are a few ways to ensure you’re not waiting for hours in the security line. For example, try traveling during off-peak times, like early in the morning and late at night, when it’s likely there won’t be much of a line at all. Days leading up to holidays, weekends, and Fridays between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. are the busiest times that you should avoid the airport if you can.

Next: This is the one thing you can control.

Make sure you’re ready when it’s your turn

Passengers going through airport security check

Don’t hold up the line. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

You can’t control the people in front of you, but you can breeze through once it’s your turn. Pack smartly, avoid banned items, and if you have a question, reach out to a TSA agent via social media while you’re still home packing rather than risking your item getting confiscated.

Next: TSA created this to help make your wait less excruciating.

Get the free app

woman traveler on mobile phone call

There’s an app for that. | beer5020/iStock/Getty Images

Of course there’s an app for airport security!

The TSA app can help you avoid a long wait time at the airport security line by keeping you informed. The app allows you to see security checkpoint times reported by travelers who are at the airport, check for delays, and see how busy your departure airport usually is at certain times so you can plan your flight accordingly.

The app is free to install for iOS and Android.

Next: Yes, there is a VIP security line you can join.

Try out TSA PreCheck

Travelers go through the TSA PreCheck security point at Miami International Airport

It’s perfect for frequent travelers. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

PreCheck is one of the best ways to avoid long lines and the airport and an absolute must if you travel frequently.

PreCheck travelers get to stand in a special (shorter) line and don’t need to remove their shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, or light jackets. In November 2016, 96% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes in security. Think of it as an airport’s VIP line. Enrollment only costs $85 and lasts for five years.

Next: Enroll in this program and get through security faster.

Opt for Clear

Clear Express Airport Security Service Goes Out Of Business

You don’t have to wait in line to show documents with Clear. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Enrolling in Clear is another way to make your security wait shorter.

With Clear, you use a kiosk to confirm your identity with a fingerprint and iris scanner rather than waiting in line to show documents. Then a team member guides you to the security line in less than five minutes, according to the company. If you also have TSA PreCheck, you can skip to the front of that line.

Next: The shortest line is usually in this direction.

Head left for shorter lines

Security and passport control at airport

Science says most people turn right. | MariusLtu/iStock/Getty Images

Let’s say you don’t travel much and you’d rather try your luck at standing in line. Research shows that when presented with two lines, most people head to the right. Logic dictates that doing the opposite would mean shorter lines with fewer people.

Next: In a pinch, this trick sometimes lets you skip the line.

Arrive late and hope for the best

Passenger Passing Through Security Check At Airport

You can always take a gamble. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

At the risk of being labeled a jerk, you can always gamble with the security lines and arrive at the airport just before your flight leaves. Often the gate agents will allow travelers in danger of missing their flight to proceed to the front of the line. It won’t make you any friends at the airport, but if you can survive some eye-rolling and angry muttering from strangers, then this option can work.

Read more: 15 Secrets Airlines Don’t Want You to Know

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