Despite higher airline ticket prices, airports are expected to be more crowded than ever this summer. To get your summer business trips off on the right foot, keep the following in mind:
- When making reservations, know that airports will be busiest on the Thursday and Friday before and the Monday and Tuesday after the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. July 4 falls on a Tuesday this year, so expect peak crowds on the Friday before and the Wednesday after. If possible, postpone business trips on or around these busy weekends, as fares will be higher and hassles more numerous.
- Although the Transportation Security Administration recently loosened rules concerning what can and cannot be brought onboard an aircraft, airport security screening is still a major bottleneck. To avoid getting slowed down (or chosen for a pat-down), dress for speed on the morning of your flight: Wear slip-on shoes, don't wear belts with metal buckles, and choose easily removable jewelry or none at all. Before entering the airport, pack your keys in your bag, and be sure to have your photo ID and boarding documents in an easily accessible pocket on your clothing or carry-on. Make sure you can easily remove your laptop from your briefcase prior to scanning.
- If you're frequently hobbled by unexpected delays at airport security checkpoints, consider the new Registered Traveler Program, which the TSA says will officially launch in June. Registered travelers will have access to shorter lines leading up to airport security screening stations. However, registered travelers are still subject to the same screening procedures as nonregistered travelers. To become a registered traveler, you have to submit to a background check, fingerprinting and iris screening, then pay a fee of approximately $80 for a special card that grants access to the exclusive security lines. For more information, see www.tsa.gov.
Chris McGinnis is author of The Unofficial Business Travelers' Pocket Guide.