Airport Etiquette: The Everything Guide to Air Travel

Written by Lana Law

Since airports across North America have ramped up security procedures, travelers increasingly face a certain amount of frustration and confusion. It is important to remember that these new security regulations have been put in place to help keep travelers safer and weed out any potential threats. By understanding and adhering to the guidelines, passengers can make the entire airport process much smoother and hassle-free for themselves and the airport employees. In this guide, we examine the main areas that require a few adjustments by travelers.

Luggage and Handbags

Every airline has different allowances for the amount and weight of luggage that they allow passengers to bring on board. Check your airline's guidelines on their website and pack accordingly. In carry-on luggage, the 3-1-1 rule in the United States allows each passenger to bring gels and liquids in 100ml (3.4oz) containers in a one-quart clear, zipped, plastic bag. This can be used for toiletry items. Medications should be in their original bottles or containers, with an accompanying note from the physician. Before leaving for the airport, review the contents of all of your bags and make sure that anything questionable or prohibited is left at home.

Going Through Screening

At the screening and x-ray checkpoints, be aware that luggage, carry-ons, and people themselves need to be properly examined to ensure that they are not bringing dangerous items onto the plane. It is a good idea to check the general list of prohibited items and leave them out of your luggage before heading to the airport. This includes sharp objects, sporting or self-defense equipment that could be used as a weapon, firearms, construction tools, and explosives. Some items, such as sporting goods and tools can be packed into checked luggage, but not in carry-on bags or in your clothes. For passengers taking connecting flights in other countries, check the restrictions in those countries as well, since they may differ.

Clothing Tips

There are no restrictions regarding the type of clothing that passengers should wear to the airport. However, do keep in mind that metal objects can trigger the screening detectors. This includes belt buckles, jewelry, hair accessories, and piercings that are made of metal. To reduce the hassle, substitute these items with something made of other materials. To make things even easier, keep objects like phones, keys and coins in your carry-on instead of in your pockets. Occasionally, people wearing excessively loose, baggy clothing or those appearing to have objects hidden under their clothing may be subjected to a pat-down. While cultural or religious garb is allowed, keep any religious and ceremonial swords, daggers or knives in the checked bags.

Things to Keep On Hand

There are a few items that airport staff ask for so often that it is best for each passenger to keep it readily available in their handbags or carry-ons. At the top of this list of travel documents are passports, visas, other photo ID, boarding pass, medical papers, and any confirmation printouts about travel plans. Children's documents should also be included. By keeping these items close by, passengers reduce the annoyance of having to rummage through bags each time and delaying everyone behind them. One easy way to do this is to keep all of the documents together in one manila envelope so that they do not get lost or damaged. Protect your documents by keeping photocopies with a trusted person back home.

Removing Shoes

Most passengers are usually asked to remove their shoes and place them through the x-ray scanners. This helps to ensure that illegal objects are not smuggled in through a person's shoes. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Children under the age of twelve, as well as military personnel and some frequent flyers are allowed to keep their shoes on through the security check. Passengers who refuse to remove their shoes when requested can be removed from their flights. Wear shoes that are easy to remove and put back on quickly. Avoid boots that take a long time to lace up. Be sure to wear socks too, so that you don't have to walk through the security checkpoint with bare feet!

A Quick Screening Process

There are several things that each passenger can do that can help make airport security employees do their jobs faster and more efficiently. Before walking through the metal detector, remove everything from your pockets and place them in a plastic bin to go through the scanner. Anything hand-held should also be placed in the bins, such as jackets, laptops, and children's toys. If you have body piercings or have metal accessories on your clothing, inform the security officer before stepping through. They may ask passengers to remove some items, such as metal jewelry, before being screened again. Remember, be open and honest with the security team.