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How Bad is Security? Depends — For Some, Not Bad at All

December 31, 2009 | Posted in: Security,Travel Safety

security terror

My editor says a family member flew cross country on connecting flights and had little trouble. Here’s her story:

I can’t speak for everyone of course, but I can tell you about a relative’s flight from Los Angeles to Hartford (with a stopover in Dallas) — and what I can tell you is, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, it was pretty routine.

The flights took place on Monday, Dec. 28: My relative did get to the airport two hours ahead of time, instead of the usual one hour — with the result that he had an extra hour to hang around LAX.

The security lines seemed to go forward normally; the only thing different (compared to his flight to Los Angeles on Dec. 24) was that his small “personal” bag had to be checked — the one carryon rule was strictly enforced.

He was not given any extra screening, and saw no one else being patted-down or otherwise pulled from the line. The LA flight departed on time, and the Dallas flight was briefly delayed due to weather.

We still recommend you get to the airport much earlier than usual since security can be unpredictable these days — and, according to some reports, time-consuming and inconvenient — but, as this story shows, that’s not always the case.

14 Responses to “How Bad is Security? Depends — For Some, Not Bad at All”

  1. stan says:

    Hey whatever it takes to have a safe DRAMA FREE flight, do it!!!can’t be as bad as right after 9/11. Everything they did was so much over… I flew from Denver into Regan National via Minneapolis and i thought i was a passanger on ConAir

  2. Sue says:

    I also traveled on Monday, Dec. 28. SFO-LIH. Security lines were miles long at United, but the actual screening was pretty much as usual. No new restrictions on the flight either.

  3. Denise says:

    I also just left LAX. I had no problem with my carry-on (I actually had three bags). The only difference I noticed in security was on the jetway to the plane was a TSA agent planted about every 10 feet. I felt like I was on a receiving line.

  4. Rick Seaney says:

    Stan, Sue, Denise,

    Glad to hear your first person stories, and glad to hear it wasn’t that bad for you either.

    Loved that “receiving line” bit, Denise; perfect imagery.

    Thanks for writing!
    Rick

  5. Christopher says:

    We flew from CVG to SFO the day after the bathroom bomber failed and we noticed an increased security presence but no longer waiting time. Howeber, when we flew from SFO bak to CVG on 12/31/09, the line was very slow passing through security. Definitely give yourself extra time!

  6. Rick Seaney says:

    Christopher,

    I agree: that extra margin of time is the most important gift any flier can give themselves these days.

    Rick

  7. Kenny says:

    I was at the International Terminal in LAX and I hate to say that it was not the same results as the one in this article. My sister-in-law and her cousin was flying from LAX to Bangkok (stopover at Guangzhou on CZ). We got to LAX 3 hours before the scheduled departure time. It took us 30 mins to get a boarding pass because they screwed up the baggage tag final destination and couldn’t get a boarding pass for their connecting flight to Bangkok at the gate. After correcting that issue, we had to queue up to drop our bags off in which the line went outside of the building. That lasted 2 hours. TSA was going through each checked bag so slowly. Lastly, it took them 15-20 mins to get through security. Because of this, they almost missed their flight despite being 3 hours before departure time.

  8. Rick Seaney says:

    Kenny,

    Clearly, as you point out, international flights ARE different. It also sounds like you suffered from multiple “problems” (and here’s where I’d like to remind everyone to watch as your baggage tag is placed on your luggage to be sure it’s heading in the right location).

    Anyone else out there who doesn’t think 3 hours is quite enough time for international flights?

    Regards,
    Rick

  9. David Z says:

    Ideally three hours is sufficient for international flights. But with all the craziness going on in the real world, you might as well give a little more time for “unforseen circumstances” like what happened to Kenny.

  10. Rick Seaney says:

    David Z,

    I agree, but do everything possible to ensure you’ll move quickly through all lines, including security, meaning: make sure all luggage tags have the correct info, be sure baggage is neatly packed (easier and quicker for security to go through), don’t accidentally bring anything through security that could possibly be misconstrued as “dangerous” and above all, be patient.

    Regards,
    Rick

  11. Steve says:

    I flew from BOS to DEN on New Year’s Day on United out of the C terminal, and there was nothing different at all. Security line and getting through took less than 5 minutes, nobody was being searched and nothing was getting extra screening that I could see.

    Now, I flew from DEN to BOS on United on Christmas Day (before the Detroit incident) and the TSA was at the gate and checked everyone’s photo ID as we boarded.

  12. Steve M says:

    I have flown coast to coast every week for the last month including passing through Dulles, Phillie, Charlotte, Houston, Vegas, and Denver – I can’t say I have seen much difference in the security measures, other than the typical vacation travellers not understanding what is expected and the typical influx of sheer volume.

    There was the whole Nor’Easter storm plus the smaller ones that came on its heels – that had me spending the night on Charlottesville and Dulles airport benches. That caused a huge backlog across the country as flights were cancelled and people rebooked right before Christmas and New Years.

    All told, I have to admit it went pretty smoothly if you planned ahead and were patient (though around 2 AM in Charlottesville, when I hadn’t eaten all day because the only cafe in the airport closed early, I was getting a bit pissy – but the Airport security showed me the error of my thinking – and I tried with renewed vigor to sleep on the cold hard floors)

  13. Jean J says:

    We dread flying in April. My husband has a pacemaker/defibrulator and we know it will be a mess, he can’t be sreened any way but by hand. We are elderly midwesterners, not exactly someone who would be prove to carry bombs, but watch what happens when we travel! I’ll bet anything it will be awful.

  14. Rick Seaney says:

    Jean,

    Here’s an idea: go to your airline’s website, and check out the section that is typically called “special needs travel”; you might find it under a heading such as “travelers with disabilities” (if you have trouble finding it, you’ll often see it in the same section as “traveling with children or pets”).

    Usually there’s a number to call. Tell the agent what you’ve told me, and ask for assisstance. Friends of mine have done this for travelers; in one case, the traveler got an airline escort through security, and in another case, the family member was given a pass to escort the flier through security, and this was AFTER the Christmas Day terror attempt.

    The most important thing you can do is to give your plenty of time at the airport and then, you really don’t have much to worry about. I bet you it won’t be awful.

    Best,
    Rick

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