On Wednesday, the Transportation Security Administration announced a new electronics rule that’s going to make flying an even bigger hassle.
Passengers moving through the standard security checkpoint will be required to unpack all electronic items larger than a cellphone and place them in separate bins for x-ray screening. This includes laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles. The photography site PetaPixel reports that the rule also applies to cameras, and commenters at The Verge say they’ve been asked to remove portable speakers. Previously, only laptop computers were required to be placed in bins and screened separately.
The TSA says the new electronics rule, which helps officers obtain a clearer x-ray image, is necessary due to increased security threats. The agency tested the new screening procedure at 10 U.S. airports and is now expanding it to all remaining U.S. airports. Officers will be stationed in front of x-ray machines to guide passengers through the new screening process.
Security lines at many airports are probably going to come to a screeching halt as passengers rummage around in their bags for electronic items and wait for empty bins to become available. Here are four ways you can get through security faster or avoid the hassle altogether.
The new TSA electronics rule does not apply to passengers enrolled in PreCheck. Those passengers can continue moving through expedited security lines without removing their shoes and belts or unpacking liquids and electronic items from their bags. But PreCheck comes at a price. It costs $85 to apply, and the fee is non-refundable even if you don’t get approved. That fee is worth paying if you’re a frequent business traveler, but it may be too expensive for families or people who fly only one or two times per year. To start the PreCheck process, apply online.
One of the biggest holdups at the security line is people unpacking their carry-on bags to find the items they need to remove. If passengers plan ahead for security, they can reduce wait times and save themselves some stress. Limit the amount of electronic items you bring on board by consolidating documents, music, videos and other files onto one device or upload them to the cloud. Do you really need to bring a laptop and a tablet? Place all of your electronic items together in an exterior pocket that can be accessed easily. Invest in a TSA-approved carry-on bag that has a sleeve or butterfly pocket to store your laptop. It’s unclear what items under the new TSA electronics rule you can leave in a TSA-approved laptop case, but a single laptop or tablet will likely make it through.
Check Your Bags
A surefire way to beat the new TSA electronics rule is to simply pack all or most of your electronic items in a suitcase and check it. Just keep your cellphone or a tablet on you for the flight. If you’re traveling in a group, you may also consider packing everyone’s electronic items in a checked bag and keeping clothes and other personal items in your carry-ons. Unfortunately, most U.S. airlines charge passengers a fee to check their bags, so this solution is going to cost you. Or you could fly SouthWest, which allows passengers to check two bags for free.
For many travelers, arriving at the airport two hours before departure and dealing with all the other hassles of modern air travel has become too great a burden. Another security procedure could be the final straw for others. Those folks fed up with the stress may want to avoid flying at all. Instead, drive to your destination or take the train, both worthy alternatives to flying. The bus is an underrated way to travel that’s much cheaper than a plane ticket. Some bus lines now offer beds. Of course, these alternatives limit your travel plans to destinations you can reach by road or train.