Business Travel Tips: Getting to Your Flight on Time
tl;dr: How to get through the airport as quickly as possible
Nobody likes waiting, especially when you have somewhere to be. Tips for business travelers to have a seamless airport experience. With almost 1.1 million people traveling for business in the United States EVERY day, it can be a daunting effort.
It’s 10am in Boston. You’re about to arrive at the airport for your 10:45am flight. You had wanted to arrive earlier but an important meeting ran late. Now, you’re off to Chicago for another even more important meeting this afternoon. How are you going to get through the airport as quickly as possible to make your flight and do the business that you’re traveling to do?
Tip #1: There’s a ton of traffic leading up to your terminal.
Want an easy solution to this? Get dropped off at arrivals instead of departures! In almost all airports, the most you’ll have to do to get from arrivals to ticketing is take an escalator. When you do this though, make sure you’re getting dropped at the arrivals section of your specific airline.
After beating the traffic, you’ve made it up to ticketing. Typically, one would check in for their flight and check a bag if necessary. Pack lightly and only check a bag if you absolutely have to! Having to wait an extra 20 minutes at a baggage carousel for your bag could make the difference between you making or missing the meeting.
Tip #2: Let’s take a look at the check-in process.
To save time, always check in before getting to the airport! (Side note: another thing you can do before arriving to the airport is checking airport wait times on the MyTSA app.) Frequent travelers know that you are able to check in online with your airline beginning 24 hours before departure. While checking in, you can make sure you’re in a seat that’s satisfactory and you’ve purchased all options that you need for the flight. Additionally, if you do have to check a bag, purchasing it ahead of time so that all you have to do is pick up a tag for it at the airport can save a few minutes.
Tip #3: Now, what about the boarding pass?
While the ease of mobile boarding passes is attractive, you should go to a kiosk and quickly print out a hard copy. Have your confirmation number handy, and it will take no more than two minutes. If your phone runs out of power or simply freezes once you finally get to the front of the security line, you’re in for a rough time the TSA team or airline personnel at the gate. It seems counterintuitive, but this will save you time by ensuring that your unresponsive iPhone doesn’t derail your plans.
Tip #4: Up next, everyone’s favorite: security!
Rather than waiting in a miserably long line until you have to plead the airport workers to let you skip the line, there are thankfully now multiple ways to make this process a breeze (assuming you’re a “low-risk traveler).
The first, which most people have likely heard of, is TSA Pre-Check. The pre-check lane is typically around 1/3 as long as the regular lane, and you also get to keep your shoes and jewelry on your body and electronic items in your bags. The set-up process is also fairly simple. After having your identity confirmed and processed at any of the 380+ enrollment centers in the country (I was able to do mine at my local Staples), you pay $85 and you’re good for 5 years. Over 200 US airports now provide pre-check – it’s almost a guarantee for any commercial airport in the country at this point.
If you frequently travel internationally, Global Entry is a great option. Offered at ~60 US airports as well as airports in 12 other countries, biometric-scanning kiosks allow you to clear customs in seconds without having to wait in any line. While the time savings are fantastic, you must do a 30 minute interview at one of ~40 airports and/or government buildings in the US. There is a non-refundable $100 fee for an interview, but if you are approved you will have Global Entry as well as TSA Pre-Check for 5 years for no additional cost.
Lastly, CLEAR is a new player trying to make passing through security a “completely frictionless” experience. They also utilize biometric scanning, but have a different approach. As a CLEAR customer you will be escorted through a designated lane that skips over anyone waiting in either the Pre-Check or normal security lanes. Then, depending on whether you have Pre-Check or not, you will join that respective lane to undergo screening.
While very attractive, CLEAR has a much heftier price tag and less airports in their system – a membership is $179 per year, and is only currently offered at 30 airports in the US. However, children under 18 can accompany you in the CLEAR lane for free, you can add up to 3 adult family members for $50 each per year. Additionally, CLEAR has the easiest set up of the three, as you register online and then get biometric scanning done at the airport (easiest to do when you go for your next flight). They estimate this process to only take around 5 minutes.
So what should I do?
For the average traveler, just having Pre-Check still lends itself to a generally pretty speedy experience. If you have some extra cash and choose CLEAR though, you can really eliminate almost any hassle associated with getting through security – especially during peak travel hours. And remember, if you frequently travel internationally and choose to get Global Entry, you will also automatically have Pre-Check and therefore get through the airport as fast as humanly possible.
It’s not all bad.
With some forethought, there are actually a bunch of different ways that you can make your next trip to the airport much quicker and easier. Not only will these tips and tricks help you have a less painful experience, but it can also make the difference between being on-time to that big meeting or missing your flight because you’re stuck in security.