In the new era of very tight airport security, there are steps that passengers can take to make the security process faster and smoother. This is particularly important for those passengers who (right or wrong) are frequently selected for extra scrutiny. Muslim travelers often complain that they are "randomly" selected for secondary screening. Follow these tips to make your trip smooth and safe.
Remember the Importance of Safety Screening
It's not easy, especially with lots of heavy luggage and tired children in tow, to maintain patience while waiting for x-ray machines to be available, for strangers to rifle through personal belongings, or for one's shoes to be retrieved at the other end of the security zone. Try your best to maintain a smile, a sense of humor, and a realization that the security personnel are looking out for everyone's safety - including your own.
Expect that you will be screened carefully, so allow yourself extra time. It becomes more difficult for everyone if things are rushed, and you are more likely to become impatient if you're running late. Even if you breeze through security quickly, there's no harm done by arriving early.
Be aware of the latest list of prohibited items
and do not carry anything (even something innocent) if it possibly could be construed as a weapon. Follow TSA and your airline's guidelines about carry-on and checked luggage.
Don't over-stuff your bags. This is hard for some of us, as we tend to cram every square-inch of space with gifts, hard-to-find items from overseas, children's belongings, etc. But if the security personnel need to open your bag, be sure that they can get it closed back up again! Another reason to pack lightly: many airlines are now charging for extra bags or extra weight.
If you expect to be selected for extra screening, you will need to go to the ticket counter inside the airport to check your bags in. But that doesn't mean you can't try checking in at curbside. As soon as your name is flagged, the porter will walk your things in, to the front of the line. You will need more time to go through the process, so it's only fair that you be jumped ahead. Porters or airline personnel may also offer to walk your bags to and from x-ray machines; just be sure to watch your bags at all times.
Listen Carefully to Instructions
Listen carefully to the airline and TSA personnel and follow their instructions. They will let you know where to go, what to do, and how to present your items for clearance. They will lead you through the process, and signal when they are ready for you to proceed. In my experience, the airline and security officers were (without a single exception) polite, professional, quick, thorough, and friendly.
Be Aware of TSA Policies and Your Rights
Security screening may include body screening devices, metal detectors, hand-wands, and personal searches. You have the right to request a different screening method if the one offered is uncomfortable for you. If a personal check is requested, you have the right under TSA policy
, to request this be done in a private area with a TSA officer of the same gender. You also have the right to wear religious clothing through the screening process. If you are misidentified as a security risk, or find that you are unfairly or incorrectly delayed, you may file a complaint through the Department of Homeland Security
Remember that Impressions Count!
Smile and be pleasant -- airport personnel are doing their job to make travel safe for everyone. If you have an attitude or a chip on your shoulder, it will only give people a bad impression of Muslims. Be patient, and have a good trip!