Security Lines for Early Flights: A Rude Awakening
When I have a 6 a.m. international flight from Dulles, I expect:
1. No traffic.
2. Easy parking in the airport lot.
3. No security lines.
4. Hot coffee at the concession stand.
I was right on three of four accounts; I totally miscalculated on No. 3.
Last Friday, I flew to the Dominican Republic, painfully arising at 3:30 to arrive at the airport two or so hours ahead of my departure time. The drive, parking and check-in were a snap. Then I saw the snaking security line and almost thought I was having one of those frightening dreams where you are aware that you are in the nightmare, yet can't shake yourself awake. Unfortunately, I was not in an REM state.
Apparently, the Transportation Security Administration keeps only two lines open late-night, roughly from midnight to 4.30 a.m. According to Amy Kudwa, a TSA spokeswoman, the morning shift convenes at 4:30 and does not open the remaining 20-odd lines until 5 a.m. That meant all dawn's-early passengers had to funnel into a measly two lines, which was like guiding spawning salmon into a garden hose. The queue zigzigged in maze formation before straightening out and stretching back to the ticketing area, then paralleling the window before ending deep in a back corner. Any more passengers and they'd be out the door.
In line, people were grumbling about the uselessness of airport taxes and the pointlessness of arriving two hours ahead of time (that was me). Many of us feared that we would miss our flights, a throwback to the early post-9/11 days when the government was struggling to balance increased security measures and passenger demands. However, just as I started plotting a Plan B, the line started to slowly creep forward. Then it picked up its pace, and I feared a Rolling Stones-style stampede. Indeed, just as Kudwa had said, at 5 a.m. the gates were flung open and the prisoners, I mean the passengers, were released.
Of course, this still does not convince me that I need to be at the airport so far in advance. Though I promise to abide by the rules, I would rather avoid that nightmare and show up at 4:55. I think five minutes in the security line is appropriate at that early hour. Shouldn't we get some kind of reward for cutting short our beauty sleep?
By Andrea Sachs |
October 11, 2007; 9:44 AM ET
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