If you thought air travel in a post-September 11 world was difficult, wait 'til post-November 19.
November 19 is the deadline for airports to switch from private security to government-employed screeners as required by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The timing couldn't be worse: The period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is one of the busiest for airline travel. Airline critics such as Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition are predicting long delays. "You might have to wait as much as three hours to get checked in," Mitchell warns.
Is this the end of the quick business trip? Not necessarily. Here are a few ways to travel without spending the whole day at the airport:
* Fly light. By the end of the year, airports will require all luggage--including checked baggage--to be screened for explosives. Get through security faster with only a carry-on. Saved: 10 minutes.
* Avoid the "wanders." It's easy to trigger the metal detectors at security checkpoints. Power down your cell phone, empty your pockets of metal objects and remove your shoes--otherwise you'll get sent through a "wanding" line for a once-over by a guard. Saved: three to five minutes.
* Travel during off-peak times. Early-morning and red-eye flights avoid tourists and get you processed more quickly. Saved: up to an hour.
* Use an airport that's been "federalized" for a while. Why? Airports like Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) have had time to work the bugs out. Other airports haven't. (To check on particular airports, visit the Transportation Security Administration's site at www.tsa.gov and go to "Briefing Room.") Saved: half an hour.
Christopher Elliott is a writer and commentator and the editor of www.elliott.org.