Airport security lines have been, well, out of control lately.
Last week, a video of an extremely long Transportation Security Administration line at Chicago's Midway Airport went viral. A few days later, about 450 American Airlines passengers missed their flights out of O'Hare International Airport, also in Chicago, thanks to "longer than ever" lines. And it's not just folks flying out of the Windy City experiencing problems. Reports of long wait times also surfaced out of Atlanta, New York and New Jersey.
How Can I Avoid the Wait?
The backups are being attributed to an influx of summer travelers, more carry-on luggage and TSA staffing issues. Fortunately, there are a few ways to bypass long lines at the airport. The TSA does offer a Pre-Check program that provides eligible, low-risk travelers with expedited security screening. To take part in the program, you fill out an application, visit an enrollment center to provide proper documentation and pay a non-refundable $85 fee (valid for 5 years).
You could also apply for Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the U.S. The application process is similar and you have to pay a $100 non-refundable fee for the clearance (also valid for 5 years) whether you get it or not.
There is a chance, however, that the plastic in your wallet could cover your pre-approval. Some credit cards offer frequent flyers credits that can be put toward TSA Pre-Check and/or Global Entry (so long as you charge the fee to the card). Here are a few of them.
The Platinum Card From American Express: Amex's Platinum (see full review here) provides cardholders with one Global Entry ($100) statement credit or one TSA Pre-Check ($85) statement credit every 5 years for an application fee. This card has a $450 annual fee. American Express provides a similar credit for its corporate, consumer and business Centurion cardholders, corporate Gold cardholders, and corporate and business Platinum cardholders.
The Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card: This card from Chase offer cardholders a $300 annual travel credit that can put toward, among other things, Global Entry fees. The card has a $395 annual fee.
The Expedia + Voyager Card from Citi: Cardholderscan use the $100 annual travel credit associated with this card to pay for either the Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee. The card carries a $95 annual fee.
Citi Prestige Card: Citi Prestige (see full review here) cardholders receive a $100 Global Entry application fee credit. The card has $450 annual fee.
Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard: This Citi card touts a $450 fee and a $100 statement credit every 5 years that can be used for your Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee.
The Perks of Travel Credit Cards
Many travel credit cards offer other amenities, like a free checked bag, priority boarding and/or airport lounge access that can make flying more enjoyable. (You can learn more about the best airline miles credit cards here.) Of course, you'll want to read the terms and conditions of any credit card you are considering so you know exactly what you are getting before signing up. As you can see from the list above, many of these cards carry a high annual fee that might not be worth paying if you don't travel often enough.
Note: It's important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
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A Newark (EWR) traveler attempted to take their hoe on the plane. If you need to travel with your gardening hoe, it’ll have to go in your checked bag.
Packing list: Socks. ✅ Toothbrush. ✅ Curling Iron. ✅ Post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask. ❌ While gas masks are allowed in carry-on bags, replica bullets are not. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at Miami (MIA). Maybe he was catching a one way flight to #FuryRoad?
Talk about deadheading... This crusty ol' chap is actually a prop from the #TexasChainsawMassacre movie. He was brought through a checkpoint at the Atlanta (#ATL) International Airport, where as you can see, he was screened and sent on his jolly way. #TSAOnTheJob
We’re pretty sure this isn’t a letter opener. A bladed dragon claw perhaps??? Whatever it is, it should be packed in checked baggage. It was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlanta (ATL).
This ornate flask of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Allentown (ABE). While it is a fancy flask, the black powder contained within is an explosive and is strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.
Attention! This is not a drill… It’s just a really large wrench. Tools over 7” must be packed in checked baggage. Especially 18-inch crescent wrenches like this one that our officers discovered in a carry-on bag at New York Kennedy Airport (JFK). #TSATravelTips
With a simple unsnap and pull, this mild mannered belt becomes BELT KNIFE! Clever idea, but a bad idea to wear it through the checkpoint or pack it in your carry-on bag. Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack items such as this in your checked baggage. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW). #TSAGoodCatch
While some travelers are worried about packing nail clippers (they are allowed), others pack a pair of five-bladed floggers. You guessed it; these are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need your floggers, they’ll have to be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered last week in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH). #TSATravelTips
#TSAGoodCatch - This knife was discovered concealed in a bottle of pills at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack them in your checked bag.
#TSAGoodCatch - This comb dagger was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Lihue Airport (LIH) in Hawaii. Knives are always prohibited in carry-on bags no matter the size. Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.
#TSAGoodCatch - This cane sword was detected recently in a passenger’s carry-on property at Las Vegas (LAS). All knives and swords are prohibited in carry-on bags, and concealed items can lead to arrest and fines.
#TSAGoodCatch - This push dagger was discovered in a package of gum at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW). Knives are always prohibited from carry-on bags, but concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.
#TSAGoodCatch - Another #Batarang was discovered in a carry-on bag. This time it was at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD). Next time, leave your batarang in the bat cave, #Batman!
#TSAGoodCatch - A throwing star was discovered in a carved-out compartment in a wooden cellphone case at Ontario (ONT) in a carry-on bag. Concealed items can lead to fines and arrest.
#TSAGoodCatch - This #bejeweled lipstick stun gun was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). All stun guns are prohibited from being packed in carry-on bags or carried on your person.
#TSAGoodCatch - These neon green faux blood adorned machetes and throwing knives were discovered in a carry-on bag at the Portland International Airport (PDX). While machetes and throwing knives are prohibited in carry-on bags, they may be packed in checked baggage that goes in the luggage hold under the plane.
#TBT April, 2014 - An 8.5” knife was discovered inside an enchilada at the Sonoma County Airport (STS). While this was a great catch, the passenger’s intent was delicious, not malicious, and she was cleared for travel. It’s always important to double check your bags and enchiladas.
Agent Neville Flynn would be extremely proud of our officers at the Miami International Airport (MIA). You see, Agent Flynn has HAD IT with snakes on planes, and our officers prevented a young Ball Python from flying the friendly skies this past Sunday.
A traveler on her way to the Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Barbados attempted to smuggle the snakelet inside of an external hard drive packed in her checked bag. If you think airplane seats can feel constricting, imagine how this little guy felt! Talk about bad memories!
While the python itself posed no danger to anyone on the aircraft, an organic item concealed inside electronics raises security concerns, which is why our officers took a closer look.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ( @USFWS ) was notified. They responded and took possession of the snake and cited the traveler. Both the traveler and the snake missed their flight.
Conversationally, this python had not gone full monty. It was wearing a nylon stocking.
#TBT - May 2014 - This mallet was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property at the Burlington International Airport (BTV). Items such as sledgehammers and mallets are considered bludgeons and are prohibited from being packed in carry-on bags. Checked baggage is fine.
#TSAGoodCatch - This ice pick concealed inside of a cane was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property at Newark (EWR). Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.
#TSAGoodCatch - These nunchucks were discovered in a traveler’s carry-on bag at the Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Nunchucks are prohibited from being transported in carry-on bags, but may be packed in checked bags as long as they’re not illegal where you are traveling.
#TSATravelTips - Marijuana was discovered concealed in a jar of peanut butter in a checked bag at San Jose (SJC). As we’ve said before, we’re not looking for illegal narcotics, but we have to report them to law enforcement when discovered. #TSAGoodCatch
#TSAGoodCatch - This key knife was discovered at the Erie International Airport (ERI). All knives are prohibited from carry-on bags. Concealed knives can lead to arrests and fines.
#TBT December 2013 - This loaded 9mm was discovered in a shoe inside a carry-on bag at the Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT). This is one of the 1,813 firearms that were discovered in carry-on bags in 2013. 1,477 of those were loaded. While firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags, you can pack them in your checked baggage, as long as you meet the packing guidelines: bit.ly/travelingwithfirearms.
#TBT August 2011 -- Two birds were discovered during a pat-down that was being administered due to bulky clothing at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). They were wrapped in socks and taped to the leg and chest of a woman who was traveling to China. @USFWS officers arrested the woman on suspicion of smuggling and exporting an endangered species out of the United States. #TSAGoodCatch