The term Frequent Flyer was coined to describe my family. My grandfather, who was a pilot in the Air Force, met my grandmother when he was a passenger on a plane where she was a Flight Attendant. My parents met in an airport when they were both on business trips. My dad traveled for work when I was young and got to keep all his frequent flyer miles, which were later used to fund family vacation flights. There was a time when I was considering getting my pilot’s license before my driver’s license. Not only does this mean that my idea of fun is a single prop plane ride over a lake on a windy day, but that I have passed through airport security more times than I can count. Most of those trips journey through the realm of TSA were at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson international airport, you know, the busiest airport in the world. Which is why I thought it would be nice to give all you lovely Woolly Blog readers a very special holiday gift, my “Do’s and Don’ts” of getting through a TSA security checkpoint.
Do plan ahead: Wear shoes that slip off easily and pants that don’t need a belt. You do not want to worry about potentially flashing the entire screening area as the full body scanner gives some security agent an x-ray vision look at your whole body.
Don’t pre-wrap any presents: While TSA isn’t gonna stop you just for having that DVD for you sister already covered in paper, if you leave your fingernail clippers in your bag and set off security that mysterious DVD shaped object will need to be unwrapped and searched, and I bet most TSA agents don’t open presents like my grandmother who is trying to save all the paper and reuse it next year.
Do ask to be screened in private: If you are traveling with large amounts of cash or precious items there’s no need to open your suitcase full of twenties or your bag of Tiffany’s jewelry in front of other passengers. You can have your valuables searched in private and all you have to do is ask.
Don’t bring matches with you: Instead bring a lighter. In 2007, TSA stopped caring about lighters because stopping every smoker and pyro who goes through the airport and telling them they have to throw away their lighters was taking up far too much time; time which TSA was supposed to be using to find real explosives. Matches though, those are still bad.
Do take your musical instrument: TSA will allow you to take one musical instrument through security in addition to the one carry-on bag and one personal item, though not all airlines are cool with you taking all that stuff onto the plane. Plus no one wants to be the guy with extra stuff when they start asking Boarding Zone 4 passengers to check all their carry on items, so maybe you should just treat it as your personal item. Either way TSA recommends checking brass instruments and bringing string instruments with you on the plane. I assume this is because guitars will make for better mid-flight jam sessions than trumpets.
Don’t bring your parachute: While TSA has no problem with this, they do advise skydivers to arrive 30 minutes early to allow time for security officers to inspect a parachute rig if it arouses suspicion. And seriously how does bringing your own parachute not arouse suspicion? Would you start a business with someone who was already filling out the paperwork to file for bankruptcy? I think not.
Hopefully this simple list will help all you travelers this holiday season.
~ Cameron Huppertz, Literary Assistant