It doesn't matter who you are, or where you are flying, we all know that getting through airport security is a total pain. All we want to do is get to our destination, but getting past TSA can make that task seem nearly impossible. Do they really expect us to keep up with the latest rules? Regardless of how we feel about it, this is a part of flying that is now unavoidable and believe it or not, travelers aren't the only ones bothered by the rules. According to U.S. News, most TSA agents find some of the regulations as useless and annoying as we do.
However, this doesn't make going through airport security any easier for us. Or, the agents jobs arguing with us about what we feel is, or isn't a prohibited item any less tiring. Instead, the best way to get through airport security fast is by knowing all of the facts. For one, the Transport Security Agents aren't there to make your pre-flight experience miserable. It's their job to make sure nothing and/or nobody dangerous makes it onto our flight. There's not much that can be done to avoid safety measures. Although, there are some surprising things that would make getting from airport security to the plane so much smoother.
It doesn't matter if you are a frequent flyer, or barely step foot in the airport. There's something here that you probably didn't know. Besides, there are probably some first-time flyers here that never realized some of these surprising rules even existed. Here are 25 Surprising Things About Airport Security (We Wish We Knew).
25 Airport Security Trays Are Totally Gross
In most situations and places, it would seem that the dirtiest spot would be the bathrooms, floors, or the doorknobs, but not at the airport. In fact, the most germs at the airport are found while going through airport security. Just think about it.
Everyone in that long line of people are reaching in their pockets, taking off their shoes, and emptying out their carry-on luggage, only to put these items in the plastic security bins.
To make matters worse, it's not likely that those bins are often disinfected. Several news outlets, including The New York Times, have reported that scientists have found that airport security trays carry more germs than airport toilets. How gross is that?
24 Joking About Explosives Is A Big No-N0
A person never knows what odd words they might say once those airport security nerves kick in. However, it should be easy to focus on things not to say. For example, do not, under any circumstances, say bomb, explosive, hijacking, or anything to do with any of these things. These are all words that the TSA will never take lightly.
These words can get you delayed, or in some cases, possibly arrested.
It doesn't matter if it's said in a joking sense to clear the nerves, repeating a news story to a fellow passenger, or even kids playing around. There is no amount of time that can take away the level of fear and chaos that any of these will bring at an airport.
23 Always Assume That Federal Air Marshals Are Traveling Too
It's no secret that there's a chance that an undercover, Federal Air Marshal might be on any given flight. As a matter of fact, it's safest to simply assume that there is one always traveling along on the plane. They are usually placed secretly on flights that pose a higher risk. For example, if the plane is carrying someone suspected of foul-play.
However, regular flights carrying Federal Air Marshals happened more often over the past 8 years.
According to The Boston Globe, the TSA is using a "'Quiet Skies' program" that has FAM investigating the behaviors of ordinary US citizen during average city-to-city flights. Especially, if that US citizen has recently entered the country. We'll say this again, always assume that Federal Air Marshals are traveling too.
22 Cats Are A Big Airport Security Threat
If there's one thing the TSA dislikes more than disgruntled travelers, it's definitely cats. Apparently, they are a major security risk for the actual agents. Just think about it. A dog probably thinks it's getting a good petting when an agent pats them down. After all, dogs are called man's best friend for a reason.
Cats, on the other hand, tend to be a bit more aggressive when being screened by a stranger.
Then, there's always the possibility of having a cat on the loose at the airport, and speaking as someone who has both dogs and cats, dogs are just way easier to catch. Besides, that rogue cat could cause a security breach if they haven't been thoroughly checked.
21 TSA Officials Talk About Us
The majority of travelers who felt like airport security was talking about them, were probably not near as paranoid as their companions thought. In reality, those airport security agents were probably conspiring through code phrases.
This nice tidbit of information was discovered by Mental Floss, during an interview with airport security agents.
One agent admitted that they often have their own codes for travelers who are either attractive, or annoying. The latter of which can cause that annoying traveler to be singled out by the agent at one checkpoint, who then signals for a prolonged screening at the next.
20 Travelers Are Only Allowed To Carry A Small Amount Of Liquid
Anyone who has never flown on a plane would probably be clueless when they saw all of the 3-1-1 rules in the airport. This rule applies to liquids and no, this rule isn't near as simple as it first appears. In fact, the liquids rule doesn't necessarily only apply to liquids at all. It also includes creams, aerosols, gels, and pastes.
The 3-1-1 rule states that a person can only carry one single quart size bag of liquids with 3.4 ounce (100 ml) items in it.
To make matters worse, this includes peanut butter, gel shoe inserts and deodorant, snow globes, lava lamps, toothpaste, any cream or liquid makeup, and even the bottle of water that's in your hand.
19 Certain Foods Can Cause Chaos At Airport Security
This may be hard to believe, but there are certain foods that according to Readers Digest, have the same signature as explosives on airport x-ray scanners. They will set off the security scanner at airport security, which will most likely cause some momentary chaos.
The main food culprits are sausage and cheese.
Therefore, if you must carry cheese or sausage, it's best if you remove it from luggage beforehand. Just leave those snacks out in the open. That way there's no initial chaos, or the possibility of a second search and missed flight.
18 If In Doubt Just Ask TSA
One helpful tip that travelers might not know about is that following TSA on social media can be both interesting and worth knowing. For one, looking through their feeds can give travelers an idea of what sort of things have been confiscated. And yes, they do share this information, which can be entertaining.
Especially, when it's something strange like a chastity belt.
Also, the TSA's accounts have an Ask TSA option, where it's possible to check about specific items beforehand. That way your personal items don't end up on their feed for the entire world to see.
17 Medications That Might Apply To The Liquids Rule
As with most rules, there are some exceptions to the airport security liquids 3-1-1 rule. Many medications, including inhalers, epipens, and those that need a syringe come in either an aerosol or liquid form. Fortunately for diabetics, allergy, and asthma sufferers, medications are allowed beyond the quart bag, 3.4 ounce per item liquids rule.
Syringes are also allowed, but only with a medication that requires them.
Although, there is a small catch. It's best to notify security of any of these items ahead of time. In other words, don't just add them into your bag or purse and expect TSA to just let you through without question.
16 Never Hesitate To Use The Full Body Scanner
The full body scanners at airports have gotten a bad rap through the years. In fact, there was a time when airport security could see a lot more than they should have been able to on those things. Plus, there's the worry about radiation.
However, the body scanners aren't supposed to use much radiation and they've gotten less intrusive. In the end, it really benefits everyone if travelers just use it. Otherwise, you've got to be screened more thoroughly by an agent, which takes more time.
15 Frozen Liquids Are A Liquids Rule Cheat
Alas! There is a liquids loophole. Who knows why, but for some odd reason all those creams and aerosols that started from a liquid form aren't allowed over the 3-1-1 rule. Meanwhile, a liquid that's frozen solid (which also came from liquid form) is.
Either way, this is still a good thing for travelers who want to get that bottled water past airport security, or anything else that can be frozen solid.
Just make sure that it is completely frozen solid. No extra liquids are allowed and alcoholic beverages must be served by airline staff in order to drink them on the plane.
14 Be Careful When Choosing A Hairstyle
Everyone wants to look their best when they get to their destination, but there are some hairstyles that can get you flagged for suspicion.
Any hair that is piled high up on a travelers head, braids, hats, or any type of hair covers can look suspicious and will require a hair search.
It's best if we just to look in the mirror and think to ourselves "Hum? Does it appear as if I could be hiding something in this particular hairstyle". Besides, we're most likely going to want to primp things up after the flight anyway. Am I right?
13 Airport Security Studies Our Behavior
Speaking of being suspicious without trying to be... Apparently, there are all sorts of ordinary, seemingly natural behaviors that the TSA are trained to look out for as suspicious behavior among travelers.
This could include yawning too much, fidgeting, rocking, or staring.
In reality, any of these things could be contributed to something as simple as being tired, restless, or nervous. However, they can also cause someone to be singled out for additional screening. The best thing to do if this happens, is to stay calm.
12 ID Isn't Always Necessary
We're not saying that any person without identification can skip through airport security and hop on a flight. However, there is an alternate option in a situation where a traveler has an ID, but has left it at the house, or lost it.
In the event that this happens, the TSA can put the traveler through an identity verification process.
This includes getting their name, address, and more information to help identify the person. If their identity is confirmed, they can move on to the screening process, which can include extra screening.
11 Dress Down For Airport Security
Another thing to remember, is that dressing down makes getting through airport security easier for everyone. There are a lot of clothes and accessories that most travelers don't realize could set off the scanner. For example, hair bands, metallic clothing, and sometimes underwire bras.
Aside from that, it's good to keep in mind that travelers have to remove most coats, jackets, and jewelry.
The safest bet is to wear simple clothes, without tons of buttons, or accessories. It's also best to wear pants, because skirts and dresses could leave room for speculation of hidden items.
10 A Bad Attitude Might Lead To Regrets
There's no denying that getting through airport security can be extremely frustrating, but it's best to keep a keep a level head and positive attitude while dealing with security. Otherwise, you might find yourself regretting that sharp remark, or mean mugging the TSA.
Not only can they signal for extra screening, but they can also set travelers up for a miserable flight.
Has a solo flyer ever wondered why they got stuck next to the noisiest family ever? Or, why a family or group ended up getting held up with individual pat-downs? It could've been that snarky attitude coming back to haunt them.
9 How To Properly Bring A Pet
Airports and pets is a confusing situation all on it's on. (Most airlines only allow small pets to ride with the owner and only a few allow large pets in cargo.) Meanwhile, taking that small pet through airport security can be even more confusing.
For example, a lot of travelers don't know that their pets do not go through the x-ray machine. Instead, pets are taken out of their carrier and either carried, or walked (leash only) by their owner, through the scanner. The TSA may need to further screen them and their carriers go on the belt for to the x-ray machine.
8 Best Shoes To Wear Through Airport Security
Yes, shoes are a part of a travelers clothes, but they can slow down an airport security checkpoint easiest. Therefore, the best shoes to wear through airport security has its own special place in this article. Mostly because they have to be removed, unless the traveler is under 12, or over 75.
The best shoes to wear are slip-on shoes.
That way there is no need to untie shoe laces and they can be easily put back on. Plus, never wear metallic shoes. Also, if a traveler must wear lace-up shoes, avoid the ones that lace up all the way up the ankle. Otherwise, there will be signs of frustration further down the line.
7 Large Electronics Have To Be Checked Too
We live in a world that revolves around technology. Therefore, it's understandable that most travelers would carry more electronics than just their cell phone in carry on luggage. Don't worry! Travelers can still keep those laptops, readers, and tablets.
However, NBC News reported that anything larger than a cellphone must be removed and placed in its own bin.
This may seem like a fairly simple task, yet that's before the traveler gets to the checkpoint. Now, they realize that they must untangle all of those pesky cords. These days, it's best to keep things wrapped up and neat!
6 What Is SSSS?
There are some flyers who know exactly what SSSS stands for when they see it on their boarding pass. Trust me, it's not the sort of raffle you want to be selected for. SSSS stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection, which means that the winner gets extra security screening.
If a traveler does get the SSSS, they are subjected to a pat down, their belongings are swabbed for explosives, more questions, a possible full-body search, and more. Plus, this is required at each stop. Again, this is not the kind of lottery that a passenger wants to win.
5 Sharp Items That Are/Aren't Allowed
There are a surprising amount of sharp items that are allowed on checked bags, but only a few can survive in carry on luggage through airport security. Obviously, the restricted items include anything that could be deemed as a weapon, such as throwing stars, swords, or any type of knives.
However, they can go in a checked bag.
Meanwhile, a traveler can carry tweezers, sewing needles, nail clippers, pencil sharpeners, crochet hooks, knitting needles, disposable razors, and even scissors, provided that they are only 4 inches long. Sorry, but all meat cleavers, box cutters, and saws will also have to stay in the checked bag. Any questions?
4 Don't Try To Sneak Anything Past TSA
The TSA can't catch everything, or can they? TSA can make mistakes and they have failed tests. In fact, there have been travelers who got away with items and bragged about it later, but that doesn't mean it will work every time. It's much wiser not to try and sneak anything, no matter how small, past airport security.
Just January of this year, a film crew attempted to sneak a fake bomb past the agents and seven people ended up in cuffs. At least, they were actually trying to see if they would get caught. An actual passenger, on the other hand, would at least get delayed, if not arrested.
3 Extra Liquids Are Allowed For Babies
Babies are cute and irresistible to most people. Apparently, this even applies to the TSA. Yep, babies and their parents get to break the 3-1-1 liquids rule. Formula, natural milk from the babies mother, and juice are all allowed over the 3.4 ounce, 1 quart bag rule.
This exception applies even if the baby isn't onboard.
However, all solo, single flyers shouldn't be too upset. This exception actually makes a lot of sense. Especially, if the baby is in tow, because let's face it, a fussy baby without their liquids isn't nearly as cute as one who is well fed.
2 TSA Pre√ Will Save Frequent Flyers A Lot Of Time
Are there any frequent flyers around? If so, here's the best thing a traveler could ever know about airport security. There is a TSA Pre√ program that low-risk flyers can sign up for, which can save a lot of time on airport security procedures.
If enrolled, a traveler doesn't have to remove their shoes, belts, laptops, liquids, or light jackets.
Furthermore, signing up is easy. Just fill out the application online, schedule an appointment, and show up for a background check. Plus, it only costs $85 for 5 years of speeding through airport security.
1 It Is Possible To Keep Prohibited Items
Most flyers don't realize that there is a couple of ways to keep those prohibited items that were confiscated by TSA. Let's say a traveler had a lava lamp, or one of those fancy swords that they bought from a gift shop and they really wanted to keep it? They do have options!
In fact, some airports have a mail center where flyers can send the item home, provided they have time to do it. Another option is to hand it over to a friend or family member who isn't flying. Then, last, but not least, they can check it, although, there is a fee. Either way, there are probably a lot of flyers who wished they had known this before their stuff ended up on the TSA's social media feed.
Or, any one of these surprising things about airport security, for that matter. So, fly safe and remember to share!
Sources: Transportation Security Administration, Readers Digest, Vice, US News, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Mental Floss, NBC News