Nobody likes going through airport security. The queues are long and the rules for what you need to remove (and what not) are complicated. That’s why we’ll explain all the rules in the shortest and easiest way possible. So that the next time you’re in an airport, you can clear airport security in a breeze.
Remove Large Electronics, Liquids, and Aerosols
When going through airport security, you’ll need to remove any electronic device larger than a cell phone powered by lithium batteries. You’ll need to take them out of your bag and place them in separate bins for screening.
You’ll also need to remove your 1 quart/liter bag of liquids and aerosols, as well as any powders above 350 g (12 oz).
Here are some items that you’ll need to remove from your bag when going through security:
- Power banks
- Wireless headphones
- Nintendo Switch
- Other lithium battery electronic devices larger than a cell phone
- Powders over 350 g (12 oz)
If you don’t remove these items, you won’t get into trouble. But the agents will ask for additional screening of your bag, and this can cause minor delays.
Keep Inside Wired Electronics, Solid Toiletries, and Chargers
To speed up going through security for you and everyone else, don’t remove any items from your bag that don’t need to be removed. You only need to remove large powders, your bag of toiletries, and personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone.
Here are some items that people often remove from their bags, but the TSA states you can keep them in:
- Metal objects
- Solid toiletry items
- Wired electronics
- AirPods and wireless earbuds
- Chargers, cables, and wires
- Food and snacks
- Medicine (dry)
Take Off Your Watch, Bulky Jewelry, and Empty Your Pockets
TSA asks passengers to take off items that can set off the metal detectors or that are extra bulky. You’ll need to remove large clothing items (for example, your winter coat) and any objects containing metal that are over the size of a small coin. Take a separate bin, and place all these items inside it, so that the agents can screen them separately.
Unfortunately, you still need to remove your shoes when going through security in the USA. In other countries, you can keep your shoes on. This is due to a 2001 incident, where a passenger hid explosives in his shoes and tried unsuccessfully igniting them mid-flight.
You’ll need to take off these items (or take them out of your pockets) before going through the airport scanner:
- Large necklaces, rings, and earrings
- Shoes (only if flying in the USA)
- Keys, coins, and your wallet
- Bulky jackets and coats
- Your cell phone
- Handbags and fanny packs
- E-cigarettes and vapes
You Can Keep Wearing Glasses, Hats, and Small Jewelry
To speed up the airport security lines, TSA asks passengers to keep on any items that don’t need to be removed.
For example, you can keep on hats, headpieces, glasses, and sunglasses. Small jewelry and piercings also won’t set off the alarms. One or two coins in your pocket are also good to go. But a larger amount of coins and keys can set off the alarms.
You can keep wearing these items (or keep them in your pockets) when going through the airport scanner:
- Small earrings, watches, and necklaces
- Glasses and sunglasses
- Hats and headpieces
- Gloves and other clothing accessories
- Face masks
Expert Tips to Go Through Airport Security Faster
1. Don’t Bring Any Items That Aren’t Allowed in Hand Baggage
There are some obvious items that you shouldn’t bring in your hand baggage, like explosives, firearms, knives, liquids over 3.4 oz, and drugs.
But there are quite a few items that people often don’t know are banned in hand baggage. For example, all power tools are banned, even if they’re plug-in type. Faulty electronic devices with lithium batteries that won’t turn on are also banned due to fire risks.
Some other items that aren’t obvious as banned include trekking poles, tent poles, tent stakes, pocket knives, scissors, corrosive chemicals (bleach, paint stripper, acetone), power banks over 160 Wh capacity (depends on the voltage, but usually the maximum is 30 000 mAh), and large, blunt objects that can be used as weapons, like a tripod.
If you bring any of these items, they will be confiscated. Depending on the severity of the case, you might also be questioned and get into trouble.
2. Get TSA PreCheck
If you apply for the TSA PreCheck program, you will be able to use the expedited screening lines at airport security in most airports across the US. TSA PreCheck lines are much quicker because passengers don’t need to remove anything from their bags. They also don’t have to take off bulky jackets, belts, and shoes. They only have to empty their pockets and take off watches and large jewelry.
To apply, you’ll have to pay a 78$ fee and you’ll be subscribed for 5 years, after which you’ll need to renew it. You’ll also need to go to a 10-minute interview with the TSA agents so that they can do a background check on you.
3. Keep Items That You’ll Need to Remove From Your Bag Closeby
If you’re bringing a carry-on and a personal item, preferably keep everything that you’ll need to remove in one bag. This way, you won’t need to open up two bags at the airport security. Also, try to pack your bag of toiletries and large electronics on top of your bag, so that you don’t need to repack your whole suitcase after going through security.
4. Learn Which Items Count as Solids and Which as Liquids
Anything that’s easily spreadable or moves by itself when turned upside down is considered a liquid by the TSA. This includes peanut butter, mascara (and any other liquid makeup items), hair gel and pastes, toothpaste, roll-on deodorant, and other similar items. They all need to be packed in your 1 quart/liter toiletry bag and be in containers below 3.4 oz (100 ml).
5. Avoid Carrying Powders in Large Quantities
Although powders above 350 g (12 oz) are allowed in hand baggage, they require additional screening. And if the security agents can’t determine what exactly this powder is, they will discard it.
When flying internationally, powders above 350 g are banned from hand baggage in a lot of countries. So if you’re bringing protein powder, laundry detergent, salt, sugar, or any other powder above 350 g, pack it in your checked bag instead.
6. Ready Your Passport/ID and Boarding Pass
Before going through security, your boarding pass and passport/ID will be checked, so keep them somewhere accessible.
Note: In Europe and a few other countries, you only need to show your boarding pass at airport security. Your passport/ID is only checked at the gate.
Summing Up: How to Quickly Go Through Airport Security
The lines at airport security are so long because people often don’t know which items need to be removed and which do not. If you’d pack a liquid (for example, peanut butter) over 3.4 oz in your bag, you’d most surely get annoyed looks from the people behind you.
That’s why it’s important to learn the basic principles of airport security. You can not only speed up the queues for others, and also make your own experience more seamless.
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