So much time is spent in planning and anticipation of our holidays, so it’s a shame when the trip gets off to a bad start. Delays at check-in and airport security can dull the most exuberant of spirits, but navigating through it need not be so stressful. We grumble about the queues and delays, but must never forget the reason the procedures are in place – the tragedy of 9/11 and continued threats. Also, don’t blame your airline if the queues are long because it’s not their fault – security screening is run by the airport operator!
How to get through airport security faster?
Your goal is to reach the departure lounge and relax with a drink as quickly as possible! So:
- Before leaving home go through your carry-on bag once more (check for items like tweezers and nail scissors, bottle openers, pocket knives, etc).
- Check for ‘liquid’ items thrown in the carry-on bag without thinking (hand cream, mascara, hair spray). You’ll have one more chance to switch any items from carry-on luggage to checked luggage before your turn at the check-in desk.
- As you approach security screening, check pockets for metal objects and remove your jacket ready to place on the conveyor belt for scanning.
- Be prepared to remove shoes if asked (ideally, wear slip-ones or shoes with Velcro fastenings).
- Remove the liquids bag and present it for screening at the same time your carry-on luggage goes through the scanner. Lighters can be screened separately or placed in the liquids bag.
- Place metal objects (coins, pens, etc.), mobile phone, computer games, camera, and any other electrical items in the plastic trays provided.
- Remove laptop from hand luggage for inspection and screening.
- Gifts in carry-on luggage must not be gift-wrapped.
More Carry-on Luggage Rules
Yes, it can be confusing – even for the most experienced traveller! As of last time, the one-item carry-on luggage restriction was lifted at some UK airports, so check if your airport is included. However, the general rule is:
The maximum size for carry-on luggage is 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (including wheels, pockets, handles).
Liquids in Carry-on Luggage
Avoid confiscation of items by packing liquids in checked luggage. Note that the fluids bag must contain no more than one litre and be able to fit within the one cabin bag allowance – even though it must be presented separately at security. ‘Liquids’ include obvious items like lotions and perfume, and less obvious items like toothpaste, hair/shower gel, oils, sprays, mascara, shaving foam, spray deodorant, etc. They must be in containers no larger than 100ml which fit comfortably (so that it will close) into one 20cm x 20cm see-through, re-sealable plastic bag.
One lighter per person is permitted. There must be room for the lighter inside the liquids bag but it can be screened individually. Lighters must never be packed in checked luggage. After security screening, passengers must carry the lighter on their person for the duration of the flight.
Some exceptions to the general rules apply, such as essential medicines for the duration of a trip. Amounts larger than 100ml may be permitted. Including items like cough medicine and insulin – but are subject to verification by a medical professional. Obtain permission from your airline and departure airport. Also, obtain documentation to support the need for the medicine from a qualified medical professional. It is advisable to check whether your medicine is considered a controlled substance well before travelling as a doctor’s note or special procedure may be required. Take care of these matters well before travel to avoid delays at the airport – for yourself and everyone else!
There are exemptions for certain items of medical equipment which are needed for the duration of a trip. Walking aids, wheelchairs and pushchairs are subject to security screening. Again, it is best to call ahead and check with your airline.
Baby Food and Liquid Diet Food
Baby food is handled separately. Sufficient liquid baby food and sterilized water may be carried through airport security. But the mother or accompanying adult will be asked to taste it. The same applies to liquid diet foods.
Laptops must fit comfortably within the carry-on bag and cannot be carried separately – unless individual airline rules allow. If the laptop does not fit into the carry-on bag it must be carried separately and will count as the one carry-on bag.
Shoulder bags, handbags, etc. must fit within the carry-on luggage.
Oversized items must be checked into the hold of the aircraft. Musical instruments are permitted as a second carry on item. If it is very large check to find out if an extra seat must be purchased.
Duty-free items are placed in a sealed bag at the time of purchase. The bag must not be opened (for example at transfer points) until the final destination is reached. Keep receipts. Restrictions may apply to duty-free items purchased on return journeys so it is best to ask before buying.
These guidelines on how to get through airport security faster are correct, to our knowledge. At the time of writing and available in full on the Department of Transport website. Rules may vary between airports and airlines, so if in doubt always check before traveling.