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The TSA announced this week that they expect to screen 25 million passengers this Thanksgiving — a 7% increase from 2017.
A month after that, they’ll buff their badges, don fresh nitrile gloves and do it all again.
Which means ample opportunity for Americans to do one of the things they do best: act like a bunch of complete and total bozos at the airport.
To help them (but definitely not you!) do better, we enlisted the help of some airline employees to come up with 25 simple rules for not acting like an A-hole at the airport.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
1. Don’t be a stinky person. “Nobody wants to sit next to someone who checked out of the hotel at mid-morning for a nighttime flight in the tropics,” one pilot told us. So take a shower, deodorize and put on clean clothes. Preferably as close to your departure time as possible.
2. Dress like you’ve been through security before. If you want to accessorize like Keith Richards at the MET Ball on Turkey Day, be our guest. But try to indulge your more minimal side on days you’ll be strutting through the security maze.
3. Think before you pack. “How did that get in there?!” you say, incredulous that the Costco-sized shampoo bottle has found its way into your carry on. We’ve all flown enough times to know what will and won’t pass the TSA’s sniff test — pack accordingly.
4. Leave the black bag at home. “Every passenger has one,” one airline staffer said. “WHY? I have seen people look at every black bag on the conveyor belt because they can’t recognize which one is theirs. It makes no sense when there are so many colors to choose from.”
5. Check in online and carry on. Fewer people at check-in means shorter lines for the typically irritable people who have to be there.
6. Take a picture of your checked bag. “This way, if your bag is lost, it’s easier for us to find it,” one handler told us.
AT CHECK-IN AND SECURITY
7. Arrive early. Obvious but bears repeating, especially around the holidays. “If you arrive three hours early for your flight, you won’t be stressed if there is a long security line,” says one pilot. And besides, who doesn’t love bellying up to the airport bar? Like hotel bars, they tend to be magnets for interesting people from all walks of life with stories to tell.
8. Don’t intentionally arrive late. So you got to the airport 30 minutes before your flight one time and a kindly employee expedited you through security. Do not, under any circumstances, take this as an invitation to make it a habit.
9. Be patient and nice to people in the event sh*t goes wrong. Flight delayed? Canceled? Took off already because you played chicken with your alarm clock and lost? Know whose fault that isn’t? The check-in agent who makes $30k a year in exchange for pacifying irate customers all day long (and who also probably has to work on holidays). “Use your manners; please and thank you work wonders,” the pilot tells us. “The staff at the airport are not your slaves!”
10. Divest before you get into the security line. Phone, keys, belt — why not stow them in your carry on or briefcase? Small things like using one fewer tray or arriving to the screening table ready to go may not make a big difference in the micro, but if everyone does it, the entire operation runs more smoothly, which is ultimately the goal here.
11. Similarly, revest after moving away from the screening machines. Pick up your bins and bags, locate the dressing tables and benches beyond the screening area (they’re there, we promise!) and proceed to them.
12. Put your bins away. You’re a big boy, you can do it. The blue shirts tend to be understaffed, and every little thing passengers can do to make the process run more smoothly helps.