It’s a nightmare every traveler dreads: you arrive at the airport with just a half hour (or less) until your flight. You rush to the security line, only to find the queue snaking all over. Thanks to the long line, you end up missing your flight, costing you both time and money.
Unfortunately, that nightmare is rather common. In fact, more than 70,000 American Airlines passengers missed their flights in 2016 due to excessive wait times. Although that number is startling, it’s only a fraction of the total number of missed flights across all airlines.
Although airlines recommend you get to the airport two to three hours ahead of your flight’s departure time, that’s not always realistic. And, no one wants to spend hours killing time in an airport. Instead, find out how you can avoid the lengthy security lines altogether.
5 ways to avoid long security wait times
You can skip the long wait and get to your gate faster with these five tips.
1. Enroll in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Precheck program
One of the most popular ways to cut down on your wait time is by signing up for TSA Precheck. According to TSA, 92 percent of Precheck passengers waited less than five minutes to get through security.
As a TSA Precheck member, you have access to a special line. And, you don’t have to remove your shoes, belt, liquids, or even your laptop when you go through security.
To enroll, you must complete an online application. Then, you must go to a processing center and present identification documents, such as your driver’s license or birth certificate. If approved, you’ll have to pay a $85 membership fee. Precheck is valid for up to five years.
Visit the TSA website for more information and to apply online.
2. Sign up for Global Entry
Global Entry is a separate program from TSA Precheck and is a smart option if you do any international travel. If approved, you’ll get expedited clearance and enter the U.S. through automatic kiosks, rather than lengthy customs lines.
You can create an account online to begin the application process, but you will be required to appear at a Global Entry Enrollment Center in-person to complete your registration. There is also a non-refundable $100 fee.
Visit the Global Entry program website for more information.
3. Invest in Clear
Clear is run independently of TSA or Global Entry. According to the company, Clear members can get through security at select airports in under five minutes. Unlike other programs, Clear uses your fingerprint or even your eyes to verify your identity.
You can apply online in as little as 10 minutes, and it costs $179 per year to join. As an added perk, Clear is available outside of airports, too. Some concerts and sporting centers also use it, allowing you to get through the lines quickly.
4. Upgrade your flying status
If you don’t fly often, you can skip the long lines without going through the rigorous application processes other programs require by upgrading your flying status.
Airlines like SouthWest, JetBlue, and even Spirit Airlines offer expedited security lines at select airports. There is a fee to upgrade your pass, but you might find the added cost well worth it for the peace of mind it gives you. Plus, you might get other perks like extra legroom or in-flight beverages.
5. Consider smaller airports
If you usually fly out of major transportation hubs — such as New York City or Los Angeles — you can expect lengthy waits in the security line. In fact, the longest wait time for LaGuardia was a staggering 144 minutes.
You can avoid those ridiculous waits by opting for smaller airports, instead. Instead of flying out of LaGuardia or JFK in New York, fly out of Newark Liberty International, where the average wait time is just 15 minutes.
Saving on travel
Now that you know the tricks to avoiding long security lines, you can start planning your next trip. If you’re looking for other hacks for your vacation, apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
With this travel rewards card, you can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That money can help you pay for airport lounge access, a priority boarding pass, or even your hotel.
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