These 8 Things Red Flag You As a Potential Problem to Airport Security

Just when we think air travel can’t get more inconvenient, uncomfortable, and just plain awful, the airlines and TSA find ways to make it even worse. So, why make it harder on yourself than it has to be? Here are eight things most likely to flag you as a potential problem passenger at airport security.

Joking About Bombs and Terrorism

This is an obvious point to avoid for most people. However, some jokers seem intent on pushing the TSA to see just how seriously they take bomb threats. Steer clear of a surprise three-hour interrogation at the airport by not talking about bombs, guns, knives, terrorism, or anything resembling violence. Just don’t.

Traveling Bearded and Alone

Sometimes traveling alone is unavoidable. But, if you’re a lone guy, be prepared for extra scrutiny. It’s doubly true if you have a beard.

tsa airport security red flags check poin getty images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Criticizing the Screening Equipment and TSA Personnel

Dealing with the TSA is an unavoidable fact of life for air travelers in the 21st century. It sucks for all of us. But boasting loudly about the fruitlessness of the security screening equipment and TSA personnel is not a soapbox you need to stand on at the airport. By all means, do so at your own peril. Just don’t be surprised if you receive the “extra special pat-down” treatment in front of your fellow citizens.

Traveling with Coffee

Watch enough episodes of Locked Up Abroad and you’ll know that traveling with large amounts of coffee is the mark of most smugglers. If you’re returning to the United States from South America and can’t help bringing back a few pounds of the good ground, so be it. Just know that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers (and their dogs) are likely to scrutinize you even more.

tsa airport security red flags check line getty images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Not Following Protocol

The litany of things — liquids, loose change, laptops, throwing stars — that must be removed from your pockets and carry-on baggage at airport security is inconvenient, but ollowing TSA protocol is a sure-fire way to make the process smoother for everyone involved. If you want to breeze through the checkpoint every time, know the rules, and follow them to the letter.

Getting Out of Line

No matter what, be patient and go with the flow. Shifting lines might be wise at the grocery checkout, but it can be the mark of someone with something to hide at airport security. This is especially true, for example, if you’re standing in a line with a full-body scanner, then suddenly decide to move to a different line with only a metal detector.

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Improper Medical Documentation

In these days of ridiculous baggage fees, we’re all trying to pack lighter and tighter. Tossing all your pills into one or two travel-sized bottles seems like a solid packing decision, but traveling with medication — especially prescription medicines — can be trickier than you think. At the very least, keep your pills in their original bottles and bring copies of the prescriptions for each drug you’ll be traveling with. If you’re headed overseas, brush up on the laws surrounding medication in your destination country. What’s legal in the U.S. may be restricted or outright banned (with heavy penalties for possession) where you’re headed.

You Can’t Power-on Your Laptop

This is one of the most overlooked requirements for air travelers, but the TSA is very clear that they can confiscate your laptop — or worse, deny you boarding — if they can’t turn on the device. Be sure to charge your laptop the night before your flight.

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