RICHMOND, Va. - Shoes off, laptops out, pockets empty. There is a lot that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers ask you to do when you arrive at the Richmond International Airport security checkpoint. If travelers follow the guidance that TSA officers provide, the walk from one side of the checkpoint to the other should be simple. Unfortunately sometimes people make unintentional mistakes that slow down the process by requiring a bag check or a pat down.
Here are four of the most common mistakes travelers make that can be avoided to help ensure a smooth transition to the secure side of an airport terminal.
Empty pockets (everything out)
It seems simple enough, but sometimes travelers just remove metal objects from their pockets such as keys, coins and mobile phones when they should remove everything from their pockets. The Automated Image Technology scanners detect both metallic and non-metallic items between the clothing and skin. That means the machines can detect non-metallic items tucked inside pockets such as tissues, wallets, breath mints, driver’s licenses and passports. If you have something in a pocket, a bright yellow box appears on a cookie-cutter outline of a person that is displayed on a monitor attached to the body scanner. That box indicates to the TSA officer the area of concern, resulting in a pat-down of that area to be sure that there is nothing dangerous concealed inside a pocket or elsewhere.
Best advice: Empty everything from your pockets and put those items inside your carry-on bag before stepping into the scanner.
Good to the last drop (finish your beverage)
It is important to stay hydrated when traveling. It’s common to see passengers downing the last drop of water or finishing off that warm cup o’ joe or frothy latte before heading to the checkpoint line. Unfortunately, a common mistake is that people sometimes forget that they’ve packed a bottle of water, can of soda, box of juice, or an energy drink in their handbag, briefcase or knapsack for the flight. The maximum limit for liquids is 3.4 ounces and they all must fit into a one quart-size bag with all of a travelers other carry-on liquids, so that bottled beverage is not likely to make the cut.
Best advice: Finish your beverage and bring the empty bottle through the checkpoint to fill at a water fountain or water filling station on the secure side of the terminal. Or bring along an empty thermal container or travel cup to fill up after going through the screening process. Doing so will save you a few dollars on bottled water once you head toward your departure gate.
Does not compute (remove laptops from carrying cases)
It’s easy to forget to remove a laptop from its carrying case. But we ask that travelers do so to allow us to get a good look at what’s under the lid to make sure it really is a computer and not something disguised to look like one. Leaving a laptop in the bag can sometimes block our X-ray view of what else is inside the carry-on bag. We need to get a clear look at contents of the laptop carrying case—so that we can be sure that all of those wires, cords and batteries are harmless. Besides, if someone accidentally forgets to remove the laptop, it will result in a bag-check. The carry-on case will be pulled from the X-ray machine, opened, tested for any traces of explosives, and then the laptop and case will need to make another trip through the X-ray machine, each in its own bin. That bag check will take a few minutes to complete.
Best advice: Put the carrying case on the X-ray belt first, and then place the laptop in a bin directly behind it so that the case is ready to reload as soon as the laptop exits the X-ray tunnel.
Group-think (one at a time, please)
Passengers should have their boarding pass and ID in hand as they step up to the TSA ticket/document checking podium. The moment that someone steps up to the podium is not the time to start pulling out a wallet or purse to hunt for ID--unless, of course, you want to hear the groans of the people behind you in line who are ready to present their documents.
Groups or families traveling together should have their boarding passes and ID out and in hand as each individual approaches the TSA ticket document checking podium. Giving the TSA officer a handful of boarding passes and IDs doesn’t work well. If a group leader hands the TSA officer all of the boarding passes and IDs at once, it slows down the process because that officer needs to match each traveler with the right boarding pass and ID.
Best advice: Have the boarding pass and ID in hand when stepping up to the podium and have each person in the group present her/his own boarding pass and ID. When traveling with small children, the parent or guardian should present her/his own boarding pass and ID and afterward present the boarding pass for each child.