Why should I arrive two hours before my flight? I’ve always zipped right through security at AVL!

If you’ve flown recently, you may have experienced what so many AVL travelers have experienced for years:  you quickly parked, zipped through check-in and walked right up to the security screener – no line to speak of.  You may have made it to your gate just minutes after you parked your car, plopped into a rocking chair and sent your spouse to pick up a latte at the Blue Ridge Tavern.  Nice!

Yes, this experience does exist.  Conversely, though, some travelers’ arrivals at the airport go something like this:

“Oh, my goodness!  Where am I going to park?  There are no spots right up front.  The lot is really full…  Where are all of these people going?”

Fifteen minutes later – after parking and walking to the terminal:

“Oh, geez.  Look at that ticket counter line!  Good thing I checked in on-line.  I’m heading straight to security…. Uh-oh.  That IS the security line – all the way back here near the ticket counters.  Oh, no.  My flight leaves in thirty minutes.  I hope this line moves quickly.  Where ARE all of these people going?”

Five minutes later:

“How many people are ahead?  Gosh – looks like there are about fifty people up there.”

Five minutes later (frustration is building):

“Can this line move faster?  Come ON, people.  Get those shoes off, pull out your laptop – get it ready for the bin…  Move, move, move!”

Five minutes later:

“Come on, come on, come on…  I’ve got a plane to catch!  I hope they hold the plane for me.” (editorial note:  Airlines will NOT hold the plane.)

Five minutes later:

“Ok.  Getting closer – I might make it.”

Five minutes later:

“Alright.  Shoes and jacket in the bin.  Laptop in its own bin.  Liquids in my clear, zip-top bag in the bin.  Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go…  I’ve got to board my plane.”

Five minutes later:

This traveler arrives at the gate and is the last to board her flight.  She just made it.  How does she feel?  Relieved?  Stressed?  Frustrated?  Angry?

In this situation, this traveler (let’s call her “Lisa Latecomer”) allowed barely enough time to go through all the steps necessary to travel by air.  If you count the minutes – from arrival and parking to boarding her plane, the process took about 45 minutes (not bad, really – a reasonable amount of time).  BUT – she almost didn’t make it.  What if those in the security line ahead of her were much slower about preparing themselves for screening?  What if even more travelers had arrived at the same time to go through screening?  (The line could have been longer.)

There are a few things happening at AVL that travelers should be aware of:

  1. More and more travelers are using the airport.  In fact, the airport has served a record number of passengers in the past 12 months (which is great news for the airport, our region … and hey, thank you, travelers, for “flying local”!)
  2. Airlines are using larger planes.  That means more people arrive at the airport at one time to check-in for their flights.  Hundreds more, sometimes, depending on flight schedules.
  3. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has adjusted staffing during peak travel times to screen the larger number of travelers as efficiently as possible.  Even with two security lines operating, only so many passengers can be screened each hour, so when lines are long, waits will happen.
  4. The TSA recently added a body scanner at AVL.  This technology improves efficiency of security screening.
  5. While TSA has not implemented a Pre Check line at AVL (this must be approved by the national Department of Homeland Security), if you are a registered Pre Check traveler, you will not have to remove your shoes, jacket or belt at AVL, which should help expedite the process.

We also know that now more than ever, there are many travelers boarding a plane for the first time – or the first time in many years – and they may not understand their role in the screening process.  These inexperienced fliers may not know that they have to remove their shoes and jackets, pull their liquids from their carryon bag to place in the bin, or other requirements.  And… please know we say this with understanding and kindness… these travelers can definitely slow the security screening process.

So – we’ve decided to help educate them.  Watch for fun signage at the airport that we hope grabs the attention of our travelers, and helps them prepare for screening while they are in line so when it’s time to be screened, the bins are ready quickly and the line moves more efficiently.

Will you have to wait in a line the next time you fly from AVL?  Perhaps.  There are definitely still times when you’ll zip right in with lots of time to spare.  But you can’t count on it.

Instead, come to the airport early (we recommend two hours before your boarding time).  Avoid the frustration and angst created by cutting it too close.  Chances are you’ll enjoy our rocking chairs, our great food (and local beer and wine, too), the view of the runway and mountains, our free wifi, and you can even get a little work done in our quiet business center.

And when you board your plane, you’ll be relaxed and ready to start your trip.