5 Ways To Avoid Lines At The Airport

Commercial airline travel in the United States has never been safer or more convenient, but that efficiency is only realized once passengers are on board the airplane. Too often, travelers have to navigate a labyrinth of check-in and security lines before reaching the gate or reentering the country after a trip abroad.

How bad is it? Travelers at Chicago’s O’Hare are advised to arrive three hours before departure, and in 2015 the lines for customs at Boston’s Logan airport frequently reached three hours.

Here are five ways to avoid the worst of these lines at the airport.

1. Apply for Global Entry.

Global Entry is a security clearance program operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency that grants approved travelers expedited entry into the U.S. after an international trip. Global Entry membership also includes access to the TSA Pre® program, which offers streamlined security screening for international flyers exiting the U.S.

Pre✓®allows you to bypass long lines, and members are not required to take off jackets and shoes or remove laptops and liquids from luggage at security. There is a $100 application fee for Global Entry (which includes Pre✓® access) and membership is good for five years.

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2. Join CLEAR.

In addition to TSA Pre✓®, a company called CLEAR can help you speed through security. CLEAR members can quickly verify their identity before reaching the TSA security screeners using fingerprints or eye scans. Once verified, members can skip to the front of the security line. Best of all, CLEAR members can still access expedited Pre✓® security screening if they belong to both programs.

CLEAR is available at a handful of airports throughout the United States and is expanding, launching partnerships with major airlines. Delta, for example, will offer discounted membership to its elite flyers. Membership goes for $179 a year plus $50 for each additional family member.

3. Arrive prepared.

To avoid lines at airline ticket counters, arrive at the airport as prepared as possible. Print your boarding pass at home so you can go straight to security if you are not checking luggage. If you do need to check a bag, you should still print your boarding pass ahead of time and make use of the “bag drop” line, if your carrier operates one. These lines exist expressly to tag baggage. Note that many airlines now offer electronic boarding passes that can be displayed on your smartphone.

4. Consider upgrading to first class. Seriously.

The latest trend in the airline industry? Instead of pricing first-class tickets out of reach for most passengers and reserving upgrades for frequent travelers, airlines are increasingly offering aggressively discounted first-class upgrades at check-in. On short flights, an upgrade could cost less than $100, but still includes priority check-in and boarding privileges that can speed your trip through the airport. To maximize your chances of receiving these offers, check in online as early as possible, typically 24 hours before departure.

5. Utilize early boarding policies.

When you board late, you not only have to wait in line, but you also might find the overhead bins full, and be forced to check your bag. However, most airlines offer some form of early boarding for various types of passengers. For example, priority boarding may be available for travelers who are injured, pregnant or disabled. In other cases, early boarding is offered to families traveling with small children or active duty service members in uniform. And of course, those with elite status in an airline’s frequent flyer program will receive priority boarding. In many cases, you must present yourself to the gate agents in advance in order to be eligible for these privileges.

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice. 

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