How to Avoid Long Waits at the Airport

See recent posts by Smarter Travel

Photo Credit: Mike Knell (image cropped)
Photo Credit: Mike Knell (image cropped)

The TSA has been in the news lately, and not for a good reason. As you may have noticed, the security lines at most major U.S. airports are ridiculously long -- so long that many people are actually missing flights despite arriving at the airport within the typical two-hour window.

American Airlines says that during a weeklong period in March, close to 7,000 passengers missed their flights. On a single Sunday in May alone, nearly 500 American passengers missed their flights at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The situation is getting so bad that Phoenix, Atlanta, and New York airports are threatening to replace the TSA with a private screening company.

Now the TSA is warning travelers to arrive up to three hours before their flight. That’s a lot of effort for a flight that’s often less than three hours long. With a dramatic increase in air travelers and a dramatic decrease in the number of employed TSA screeners, there's no question to what's causing these wait times.

See one traveler's horrific experience at Chicago O'Hare:

Related Link: 10 Ways to Speed Through Airport Security

On May 13, Homeland Security announced it will hire 768 new officers and approve additional overtime compensation for the current 42,500 employees in major airports as a way to ease the problem. This isn’t going to fix the immediate problem, though. Hiring these new employees will take months, and we’re about to enter peak travel season.

So, how can you avoid having to get to the airport an obscene amount of time before your flight? Luckily there are a few options (besides sharing your miserable experience on social media with #iHateTheWait, although that might help relieve some immediate frustration).

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry could help, as long as there are enough staff members on duty to control these separate lines. These lines are much, much shorter and you save time by not having to remove liquids, laptop, shoes, and outer layers.

Related Link: What Not to Wear in the Airport Security Line

Another option is to purchase priority access through the airline you’re flying. JetBlue, United, and Delta all have various programs that will get you to expedited lines at security. However, this is an extra cost and the perk is only available at select airports.

If you haven’t booked your summer trip yet, consider flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday and at midday to avoid busy airport times and thus long waits. Also consider flying to/from a smaller airport. For example, instead of Boston, fly out of Providence or Manchester. While flying is always unpredictable, picking a less busy airport and travel day and time should save you some time in security lines until the TSA can sort itself out.

Have you experienced long lines at security on a recent trip? If so, tell us in the comments!

Travel Gear Essentials

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from

More from SmarterTravel:

Read the original story: TSA Warns Travelers About Airport Wait Times by Ashley Rossi, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

All products are independently selected by our writers and editors. If you buy something through our links, Oyster may earn an affiliate commission.