These Are the Most Annoying People at Airport Security, According to the TSA

Here’s how to make sure you aren’t one of them.

<p>btrot60/Getty Images</p>

btrot60/Getty Images

Frequent fliers will tell you the airport experience is akin to an art form. With proper preparation, the right tools (yes, TSA PreCheck is worth it), and a bit of luck, traveling can be relatively seamless. It becomes frustrating, though, when you aren’t physically or mentally ready for a trip to the airport. If that’s the case, you risk becoming the visibly stressed passenger who loses their wallet, can’t find their passport, or, worst-case scenario, misses their flight.

No one has more experience with situations involving an underprepared or flustered traveler than a TSA agent. Responsible for protecting passengers and keeping the checkpoints moving, the members of this government agency come face to face with all temperaments (pleasant or otherwise) and levels of organization.


That said, some passengers are more bothersome than others. To ensure you don’t wind up being the most annoying person going through airport security, Travel + Leisure spoke with Eric Guthier, a uniformed advisor at TSA headquarters, to get the inside scoop on the passengers who slow down the whole process.

Long story short, if you want to earn or keep the self-proclaimed title of “expert traveler,” don’t be these six people at security checkpoints.

The Rule Breaker

<p>Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images</p>

Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

If you’re bringing prohibited items to the checkpoint, you’re “at the top of the list,” says Guthier. Pocket knives, oversized liquids, and even bottle openers can cause a bag search. “More bag searches [mean] slower lines for everyone,” he explains. Firearms, on the other hand, can result in the “temporary closure of an entire screening lane.” No one will appreciate that.

To avoid breaking any of these rules, Guthier suggests doing a once-over before heading to the airport: “Travelers taking a few minutes to methodically go over what they have in their bags would go a long way toward ensuring they have maximum efficiency in getting through the checkpoint.”

The Flier With Faulty Luggage

When asked about the type of luggage that can cause havoc in security lines, Guthier says, “[Those with] missing zipper tabs may cause problems.” Opening a broken and particularly full suitcase can be time-consuming. Sometimes, however, carrying a broken bag is unavoidable. As an easy fix, he recommends using zip ties as temporary pull tabs.

The Overdressed Traveler

<p>Digital Vision/Getty Images</p>

Digital Vision/Getty Images

You’re welcome to dress well, of course, but if your attire is too complex, you might end up delaying everyone behind you. “Shoes or boots with lots of laces slow people down prior to the X-ray screening,” he shares. “And shirts and pants with elaborate decorations (such as sequins) may make secondary screening more likely.”

The All-over-the-place Passenger

The biggest mistake Guthier sees? Disorganization. Before you even enter the security line, he recommends getting all of your affairs in order. “We prefer when passengers arrive with plenty of time to spare, are organized, [and] have their documents ready. When passengers are frenzied, worried, and disorganized, they tend to do things they wouldn’t normally do such as sending their pets through the X-ray.” Don’t be that traveler.

The Adventurer Who Avoids All Questions

<p>izusek/Getty Images</p>

izusek/Getty Images

If your bag is identified for inspection, you’ll be asked to answer a “standard set of questions,” according to Guthier, plus a few others depending on the issue. He adds, “It helps greatly when the owner answers our questions honestly without assuming they know what we are looking for.”

The Impatient Person

If there’s one thing a traveler can do to keep annoyance levels at a minimum, it’s to simply practice patience. “We wish travelers would keep in mind that we are there for their safety, as well as the safety of everyone else in the airport…At the end of the day, we are people who go home to our families, just like they do.”

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