COLONIE, N.Y. – Record numbers of travelers are predicted to pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints this holiday season. Thanksgiving travel across the county is always one of the busiest times of the year for air travel. So how to get through it all and maintain your sanity?
The best way to ensure a quick trip through the security screening process is to prepare, prepare, prepare.
Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide. To facilitate the security screening process, travelers should arrive early to Albany International Airport. It is recommended that travelers arrive 90 minutes in advance of their flight to ensure that they have time to park their cars or return rental cars, check their bags with their airline, get their boarding pass and hit the restroom—all before heading to the security checkpoint.
Travelers should prepare carry-on bags for coming through the checkpoint without any prohibited items inside. Follow the 3-1-1 regulation when carrying toiletries (up to 3.4 ounces in a 1-quart plastic bag and only one bag per person). Prepare by wearing easy-to-remove shoes. Prepare by emptying pockets before heading through the checkpoint screening equipment.
Preparation is the key to getting through the checkpoint efficiently because there are so very many people who will be flying out of the Albany area.
Food items are popular to travel with during this time of year. So let’s get right to it—yes, you can carry the following items through a checkpoint: pumpkin or apple pie, turkey, ham, brisket and cooked stuffing. However, items that are liquids or gel-like such as gravy, cranberry sauce, salad dressing and cooked mashed or sweet potatoes, are not allowed past a checkpoint. If an item can be spilled, spread, sprayed, pumped or poured, it cannot go past the checkpoint. Frozen ice packs can be brought with food items, as long as the ice packs are frozen solid.
The most common mistake that passengers make is that they have items that are prohibited at a checkpoint—mainly oversize liquids and various knives that are in their carry-on bags. Prohibited items detected at a checkpoint will slow a checkpoint line. They require bag-checks, tests for traces of explosives and finally, rescreening through the X-ray equipment and can add a few minutes to the amount of time it takes an individual to complete the screening process.
Travelers are strongly encouraged to follow these tips:
- Arrive early. The increase in travel volume has a wide-ranging effect. Consider incorporating additional time in your travel plans for traffic, parking, rental car returns and airline check-in. TSA recommends arriving 90 minutes in advance of a flight.
- Prepare for security when packing. Put large liquids, gels, creams and aerosols, into checked bags such as shampoo, conditioner, suntan lotion, shaving cream and anti-perspirant. If you’ve only got a carry-on bag, make sure all of your liquids follow the 3-1-1 rule outlined below. And it’s important to make sure that you’ve got no prohibited items in your luggage. Check TSA’s web site feature “When I fly, can I bring my ________?” at TSA.gov. Type in an item and find out immediately if you can bring it in your carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither.
- Follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule for carry-on bags. When packing a carry-on bag, it is important to remember that liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces or less and all bottles must fit in a single quart size plastic bag and placed in a bin for screening. This includes sun block and tanning sprays. Let the TSA officer know right away if you’re traveling with larger quantities of medically-necessary liquid medications or breast milk or formula for an infant.
- Be ready when you enter the checkpoint line: Have an acceptable ID and boarding pass out of your wallet and ready to hand to the TSA officer. Once you get to the divesting tables, remove large electronics including laptops and the 3-1-1 compliant liquids bag, from carry-on baggage. Consider minimizing items that you wear to the airport such as bulky jewelry, scarves, hair accessories, large belts and other bulky items as these articles are likely to require additional screening. Remove all items from your pockets and put them into one of your carry-on bags so you won’t lose them.
- @AskTSA: Unsure if an item is allowed through the security checkpoint? Experiencing issues receiving TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass? Travelers with questions about transportation security can contact a TSA employee for live assistance 365 days a year via Twitter. Tweet your questions and comments to @AskTSA from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends/holidays.
- TSA Cares: Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 1-855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint 72 hours prior to traveling. Injured service members and veterans including individuals associated with a wounded warrior program may contact TSA Cares to help facilitate the screening process.
- Check the bins: Equally important, travelers are reminded to check the bins when collecting all belongings after going through screening and before leaving the checkpoint screening area. Often, travelers leave behind laptops, cameras, phones and loose change.
- The TSA Contact Center is available to answer questions by email and phone at 1-866-289-9673. Staff is available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends/holidays; and an automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Travelers may also want to sign up for an appointment to apply for TSA Pre✓®. TSA Pre✓® is an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 complaint liquids/gels bag in a carry-on, in select screening lanes. Those eligible for TSA Pre✓® can participate at more than 180 airports when traveling on any of the following 19 participating airlines: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Cape Air, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Lufthansa, One Jet, Seaborne Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines, Virgin America and WestJet. TSA has also opened more than 380 application centers nationwide, allowing more U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the opportunity to participate in TSA Pre✓®. Interested travelers can pre-enroll online.