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In this blog post, the fourth in a series, Thomas Pecora discusses best practices for remaining secure at the airport. He is director of Pecora Consulting Services, which provides consulting services in security vulnerability and threat assessments in Asia and the United States, as well as personal safety and crime prevention and avoidance, and travel security skills training. Pecora is also author of the memoir, Guardian: Life in the Crosshairs of the CIA's War on Terror, and served 24 years as a CIA senior security manager. He managed large complex security programs and operations in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East and in war zones.
Air travel has become so routine that we often take for granted some very basic security aspects that should be addressed at the airport prior to flying to our destination.
Do your research and find out what terminal you will fly from, how the airline handles ticketing (kiosk versus long lines at teh agent counter), curbside baggage check and the security process. Arrive early. This prevents at least the stress of worrying about a missed flight should there be long lines at the ticket counter or at security.
Frequent Flyer programs are highly recommended. Besides the obvious travel benefits, there are some security advantages. Frequent flyer passengers are tracked and bad guys do not like this so you will automatically become less of a target for additional security screening. Global Entry, TSA Pre, and other trusted traveler programs offer multiple benefits, ensuring that you will receive the best treatment by TSA. TSA Pre and Global Entry both provide a fast track through security and anything that saves time and stress is always a huge benefit for frequent flyers.
Prepare for airport security screening. Organize your carry-on items so that you can easily get through the screening process. Laptops and other electronics need to be placed separately on the x-ray conveyor. Empty your pockets and use a small bag in a zippered compartment on your carry-on to hold any small valuables. This way, you can easily check them after you pass through the screening process. If you are randomly selected for a more thorough screening, cooperate. But ask for any screening to be done in plain view (i.e., not in a separate area or behind a screen). This will help prevent any possible scenarios from planting of evidence to improper conduct on the part of screeners.
According to a 2008 study from the University of Greenwich, passengers closest to an exit are more likely to get out alive should there be a crash. The study also noted that aisle seats are safer than window or center seats. Choosing an aisle seat increases your survival rate from 58 percent to 64 percent. Avoid choosing a seat to the front or the back of the plane. The over-wing area, within five rows of an exit, is safer than the back of the plane.
The ideal seating arrangement is over the wing in an aisle seat no more than five rows from an exit.
Don't dismiss calls to keep your seatbelt fastened whenever you are not moving about the aircraft. One of the most common causes of injury on an aircraft happens when a plane is jolted by turbulence and passengers are wandering around the cabin or not wearing a seatbelt.
If your budget allows, consider flying business class. Business class has some distinct security advantages. Besides expedited processing (avoiding long lines), access to business class lounges add an additional level of security screening, as does the opportunity to board the aircraft earlier. In many airports, business class passengers are afforded expedited customs and immigration processing helping you avoid the masses.
Less is more when it comes to completing customs and immigration forms. Provide only what is required and, when possible, avoid using high status titles (for instance, use manager instead of Chief Operating Officer). Be specific only where necessary (i.e., lodging information, date and place of birth, etc.) and use generic terms for your reason for travel (vacation, conference, etc.).
By doing some research and preparing for your airport transit, you can make your air travel experience safer and more enjoyable.
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