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Need to know about airline security now
June 23, 2007 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Do I need a ticket to go through airport security?

My daughter is leaving on an extended tour tomorrow. We can't find info on several travel questions at the airline site. For instance, her final destination is out of the country, but the first leg of the flight takes her to a US hub. The airline says for an international flight, check in 3 hours ahead. So is the first leg considered international (because that's where the baggage is going) or US (because that's where she is going).

Second, can we get all the way to the gate with her, or will we have to drop her at the security checkpoint?

Finally, is there anything else I can obsess/worry about that I haven't thought of?
posted by nax to Travel & Transportation (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The last few times I've flown- and the last was maybe 2 weeks ago- you need a valid boarding pass to get through security. 9/11, blah blah. If it's going intra-country, I suppose it's US/Domestic and not Int'l, as it's only the first leg of her trip and there are certainly some people who won't be following her.

Don't freak out too much. Unless your daughter is, oh, 12, I think she should be okay. Counter staff can be sort of unfriendly, but airports are stressful, confusing places and there's usually someone to help her out. They're also full of great time wasters, but pack a few books. Long distance flights can be brutal if she's not a napper.
posted by GilloD at 9:34 AM on June 23, 2007


Is your daughter flying as an unaccompanied minor? If so, yes, you should expect to be allowed to take her to the gate and see her boarded. If she's not unaccompanied or not a minor, no, you're not going to get to the gate.
posted by majick at 9:34 AM on June 23, 2007


The first leg is usually considered international, yes. You'll have to show the passport at the very beginning (and sometimes again at the gate). Coming back, however, only the first leg will be international; when she gets back into the hub, she'll have to leave security/recheck her bags/come back through security, although she won't have to check in again.

And no, you can't get all the way to the gate. You need a boarding pass to get through security now (sucks, doesn't it).

Make SURE she knows about the liquid limits, and the scope of what can be considered liquid. I got hummous thrown out last week. I got a carabiner thrown out coming back from france, too. Those were serious "WTF" moments.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:37 AM on June 23, 2007


I got a carabiner thrown out coming back from france, too.

I have to ask- did they try to justify this? I mean, what could they possibly say about such a thing?

(Apologies for derail. May her trip be wonderful.)
posted by IndigoJones at 9:43 AM on June 23, 2007


IndigoJones: you could hide a sharp object in the hollow tube, apparently.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:44 AM on June 23, 2007


I flew international last summer. The first leg (from smallish texas city to Hub airport) was considered domestic. It's going to depend on the airline, really.

Look at your ticket - if the first leg is (say) US airlines, and the second is "US airlines partnered with/operating with British Air" or "Scandinavian Air" or whatever, then my bet is that she'll travel domestic on the first leg, then in the Hub City transfer to the international terminal, where she gets her boarding pass for the international flight and goes through customs.
posted by muddgirl at 9:51 AM on June 23, 2007


You need to show up early at your point of departure, because that's where documents will be checked.

You can buy a fully refundable ticket somewhere in order to get a boarding pass that will get you beyond security. Once you're done, you can say you changed your mind and get a refund. Ensure that the ticket is fully refundable back to your original form of payment.
posted by grouse at 9:55 AM on June 23, 2007


I've flown as an unaccompanied minor many years ago. They don't let people without tickets past the security gate; however, if she is a minor she will be accompanied by a crew member from check-in onwards. Quite fun, actually. Since she's with a tour she'd probably have people following her anyway.

Since her final destination is international, it would be best to show up as early as possible - heck, even earlier. Lines build early, and the US is ultra-slow with security checks.

If both legs of the flight are on the same airline, she can check in for both at one go. (If they're both part of the same FLIGHT - same flight number - then she'll only check in once anyway.)

Worry about nothing. Your daughter is in good hands. Just make sure she doesn't have anything sharp or any liquids in her carryons - place them in check-in if she needs to bring them with her.

She'll be ok. Good luck!
posted by divabat at 9:59 AM on June 23, 2007


On posting, one doesn't travel "through customs" on the way out of the U.S.

Also, trying to create an artificial distinction between "domestic" and "international" travel that is all within the same country is meaningless and arbitrary, because that's not how the airlines consider it. I think this is responsible for some confusion here. Forget about that.

What you need to know is that (a) you need to show up early at your initial point of departure, and (b) your entire ticket is international if any part of it has an international leg, and international ticketing rules (such as the Montreal Convention) apply.
posted by grouse at 10:05 AM on June 23, 2007


Also, having flown with a tour before:

Get the phone numbers for the tour offices, and make sure both you and your daughter have them, in case of emergencies.

Keep in mind that you may be bumped off a flight due to overbooking, or you may end up missing your flight because the lines were too long (happened to a friend). DO NOT volunteer to be bumped off if you can avoid it. If you do miss the flight though, don't fret - you'll still be able to find help, especially if you missed it because you got held up at security. This is when you need to contact the tour offices to let them know. (This friend was supposed to be on the same flight as me but couldn't make it, and couldn't contact the tour; I spoke up on her behalf since our flight was indeed overbooked and I thought she may have been bumped off.)

If she's lost there is always crew and security to help her. You can accompany her at check-in, though US airports tend to have electronic check-in nowadays. If this is a real concern, speak to the crew during check-in and they will be happy to help.

Watch your baggage weight. You really do not want to be charged for oversize luggage, and they may weigh your carry-on. If she's carrying a laptop, that counts as separate to your general carryon bag.
posted by divabat at 10:07 AM on June 23, 2007


Many airlines will let you accompany a minor back to the gate. When my 15 year old sister flew Southwest Airlines from Pittsburgh to Baltimore I was able to get a ticket that allowed me to go through security with her and wait for the plane (obviously it wasn't an actual ticket that allowed me to board). Just ask at the counter where you check in, or you could probably call the airline in advance and see if they allow this.
posted by thisisnotkatrina at 10:19 AM on June 23, 2007


I think you actually might be able to get to the gate. It's entirely dependent on your airport and airline, though.

When your daughter checks in at the counter, explain the circumstances and ask for a "gate pass." Often they'll grant it, especially at smaller airports and the more, er, customer-focused airlines. With that pass and the usual ID the screener will allow you into the gate area.
posted by gazole at 10:21 AM on June 23, 2007


If she's carrying a laptop, that counts as separate to your general carryon bag.

What if the laptop is in the carry on bag?

grouse-- thanks for the common sense answer. Kind of figured that.

Everyone-- she's 18 and has travelled some, is pretty savvy and will be with a large group from the tour on the second leg. But, hey keep it coming, because I'm basically determined to obsess about this, so I might as well have good stuff to obsess about!
posted by nax at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2007


further info-- it's a professional theatrical tour, not a tourist thing.
posted by nax at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2007


she'll travel domestic on the first leg, then in the Hub City transfer to the international terminal, where she gets her boarding pass for the international flight

I can imagine very few situations in which this would be the case. I've had a ticket for an intra-U.S. flight printed in Frankfurt. Also, in airports like Atlanta, you can go between the terminals without having to go through security or check in again. At Newark, Philadelphia, and JFK, this isn't necessarily true, but there's nothing stopping them from printing out all your tickets for the day where you first check in.

your entire ticket is international if any part of it has an international leg

By "entire ticket," do you mean the whole itinerary, or just the day's travels? Last winter, I took a triangular trip, and the first two legs were to or from Canada, but the last one was entirely within the U.S. Would that last leg be considered international for liability purposes?
posted by oaf at 10:24 AM on June 23, 2007


Oh, she's 18? She's going to have to leave you at the security checkpoint.
posted by oaf at 10:25 AM on June 23, 2007


oaf: I am talking about all the travel on one ticket, i.e. the same ticket number (a long string of numbers with no letters such as 0011234567890-12). That constitutes a single contract for travel. Only you can tell for sure, but from your description it seems more likely that your travel was on a single ticket.
posted by grouse at 10:40 AM on June 23, 2007


Yeah, don't worry about it too much, she'll be fine. Airport people are brisk if they think you know what you're doing, but if you look lost or confused they're typically very helpful. Can't say that about TSA people, though (I'm still bitter about the hummous). If you have any control over the ticketing, make *sure* you have enough time at the layover. I've cut it close before, and in an airport you don't know you don't want to have to run from gate to gate (usually international is another terminal, although in many airports now you don't have to leave security).

If its going to be a tight connection, make sure you tell the flight attendants at the beginning of the flight. They'll usually try to make sure you get off quickly and know where you're going then.

Also, it doesn't sound like this'll be an issue, but traveling alone can be really stressful if you haven't done it, and it can be really helpful for her to know that she can call you and rant in between flights about all the ridiculous stuff that's going on.
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:45 AM on June 23, 2007


If the laptop is in the carryon, and she's not carrying anything else besides a purse, then that's fine. Usually it's General Carryon + Laptop OR Purse + Very Small Thing, though usually when I travel my laptop goes in my backpack and sometimes I'll have a smaller purse-type thing. They basically don't let you have two big bags, that's the idea.

Her tour group (I travelled with a musical group too! haha) may ask her to hold on to another carryon, usually a laptop or a projector. That's so they don't have to check EVERYTHING in. Nothing wrong; as long as she knows what's in it, and she can spare that as her carryon (i.e. she only has one of her own carryons to deal with) then it's fine.

18 is considered pretty much "adult" in airports. But again, since she's with a group she'll hardly be lonely. She might not even want you at the gate - I'd cringe if my mum wanted to follow me right up to the gate! She's the sort of person who would, even though I am already very travel-savvy, but that's mums for you.

Come EARLY. Earlier than you think and then some. Security is SLOOOOOW. I cannot emphasize this enough. You'll be glad you showed up early, even if it means hanging round the gate longer than expected.

You may need to have your luggage unlocked for security, so don't keep anything valuable in check-ins.

I don't know where she'll go through immigrations, in the first airport or the second one, but be prepared for it.

Make sure she's got her own passport and ticket on the day! My mum managed to take my sister's passport by mistake when coming back from London. She had to take the next day flight because my sister couldn't make it back to her house and to Heathrow in time. Now we always ask each other jokingly if we have the correct passport. Silly, but you never know!

Does she have a credit card? It's not necessary but makes electronic checkin easier (verifies your identity).

If the electronic checkin machine says that they can't process your checkin and that you need to go to the counter, don't fret; most likely that just means they need to see your ID. You'll probably need to check in again for the international bit - ask the counter staff for details (whether you can check in for both, which gate to go to, etc) and also call the tour head for clarification.

Try to find out whether she needs to get her bags out of the carousel after arriving in the US city (if she couldn't check in to the international destination before) or if she doesn't need to (she's checked in internationally - the bags will be sent to the international plane). Even if she has already checked in to the international flight in advance, she may still need to get her bags out. Check.
posted by divabat at 10:45 AM on June 23, 2007


1) She needs to arrive at the first airport three hours early.

2) If your daughter is 18, has travelled before, and is on a professional theatrical tour, then you need to say good-bye at the gate.

3) I won't tell you not to worry/obsess because you can't help it, but try not to stress out your daughter. Let her go and have a good time.
posted by donajo at 10:47 AM on June 23, 2007


sorry, the formula should be General Carryon + Laptop OR Purse OR Very Small Thing (not + VST). You'll see guides for what they consider carryons at the airport anyway.
posted by divabat at 10:48 AM on June 23, 2007


ONE LAST THING for now that just occured to me: During my tour (we travelled US -> Japan -> Europe and came from many different countries), our tour leaders had already obtained boarding passes for us and all we had to do was deposit our luggage. Since we were a big group we did get some extra allowances on luggage weight - not much, but made a big difference for some of us! This tends to be a matter of luck though.

Again, if you have any questions about the travel, the theater tour head will be the best person to ask.
posted by divabat at 10:52 AM on June 23, 2007


Does she have a credit card? It's not necessary but makes electronic checkin easier (verifies your identity).

A passport will function fine in this regard. I know for a fact that the automated kiosks used by Delta, Continental, and Air Canada all read passports.

You'll probably need to check in again for the international bit

No, you won't, and you almost certainly won't need to claim your bags if you haven't left the U.S. You won't need to claim your bags until you change countries.
posted by oaf at 11:13 AM on June 23, 2007


If she's flying long-haul, one of those inflatable neck pillows and a sleep mask are invaluable. Make sure she wears shoes that she'll be able to get on easily if she takes them off during the flight. Feet swell on a plane and I've seen people struggling to get shoes back on and have to go barefoot when disembarking. Crocs are great to travel in, they're easy to slip off and on through security and on the plane.

Also, if she's travelling through the UK, she's allowed only ONE carryone, and that INCLUDES a laptop or purse. If she wants to carry those, they must fit INTO her carryon. Full details here.
posted by essexjan at 11:27 AM on June 23, 2007


Data point in case anyone returns to this thread later for research, wrt:

I've flown as an unaccompanied minor many years ago. They don't let people without tickets past the security gate; however, if she is a minor she will be accompanied by a crew member from check-in onwards.

This has changed.

My 11-year-old flies as an unaccompanied minor regularly. Without fail, the procedure is that one parent shows ID and gets a gate pass when Child is checked in, and that parent escorts her to gate and waits with her, till pre-boarding begins and a crew member takes Child onto the plane. The airline invariably tells parent to remain until plane has pulled away from the gate, just in case something happens and flight doesn't depart as planned.

Then, the family member picking up must be registered in advance with the airline when we pay the unaccompanied-minor fee. That person shows ID at ticket counter, receives gate pass, and then waits at gate to receive Child from crew member as she deplanes.

This has been our experience in multiple states, various airlines, big and small airports.
posted by pineapple at 12:22 PM on June 23, 2007


When your daughter checks in at the counter, explain the circumstances and ask for a "gate pass." Often they'll grant it, especially at smaller airports and the more, er, customer-focused airlines. With that pass and the usual ID the screener will allow you into the gate area.

A year and a half ago, I was stuck next in line behind a couple of immediate family members of the person in line ahead of me, who wanted to accompany that person to the gate. The TSA guy explained to them that they couldn't just go through security without a boarding pass, unless they went back to the airline counter, explained their situation, and got a gate pass. (This was at MSP, not sure what airline they were flying.)

But if I were 18, I'd probably also be mortified at having my mom insist on going all the way to the gate with me. Different people may have different feelings about it.

You can buy a fully refundable ticket somewhere in order to get a boarding pass that will get you beyond security. Once you're done, you can say you changed your mind and get a refund. Ensure that the ticket is fully refundable back to your original form of payment.

I saw that episode of Seinfeld, too.

posted by gimonca at 1:43 PM on June 23, 2007


But if I were 18, I'd probably also be mortified at having my mom insist on going all the way to the gate with me.

Certainly, if she is there as part of a big tour group and no one else's parents is doing it.

I saw that episode of Seinfeld, too.

I didn't know this happened on an episode of Seinfeld. But I do know some Flyertalkers who swear by that method.

One more suggestion: check visa requirements for all the countries your daughter is visiting on Timatic.
posted by grouse at 1:59 PM on June 23, 2007


Make sure she gives you a copy of her passport ID page. If her passport is stolen/lost, it will expedite issuing a new one. (Or scan it & email it to her webmail/gmail, that way she can access it virtually anytime.
posted by dreaming in stereo at 2:04 PM on June 23, 2007


Doesn't apply to the OP, but just for future reference: you can get a gate pass to drop off a passenger (or meet an incoming one) for a lot of reasons - basically, anything you can convince the check-in people is a worthy exception to the rules. I've done this once when I was flying in with a broken wheelchair (which wasn't discovered until the gate crew had all left. Thanks, guys!).
posted by spaceman_spiff at 2:33 PM on June 23, 2007


If she's 18 I really think you should try not to hover over her and try to control every factor. She's a grown-up and can navigate an airport all by herself! It's this kind of thing that causes the "helicopter parent" syndrome -- working in a university I see the results of that every day and it ain't pretty.
posted by loiseau at 3:44 PM on June 23, 2007


your entire ticket is international if any part of it has an international leg

For the purposes of luggage allowances this is not necessarily the case. I had an international flight followed by a domestic leg to get on a cruise ship once, and they slammed me on being over my allowance because the domestic leg had a lower per bag allowance than the international and I had all my crap packed in a single bag.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:36 PM on June 23, 2007


jacquilynne: Once again, another example of why it does not make sense to just decide something is "domestic" or "international" without having a specific purpose in mind, and taking a determination from one purpose to make a decision elsewhere may not work. Some airlines do not simply distinguish between domestic and international baggage allowances. They might give their typical domestic allowance to people traveling to Canada or Mexico, despite these destinations surely being international. They might give travelers to Europe a different allowance than travelers to Asia. So when trying to determine baggage allowances, "domestic or international" is the wrong question.

But in this case, if you were entitled to the higher rate (e.g. you were traveling from a country other than Canada), and all your transportation was on the same ticket (not just the same reservation/itinerary), what's more likely is that the airline agents just made a mistake.
posted by grouse at 5:43 PM on June 23, 2007


If the laptop is IN the bag, it's fine. However, she'll have to remove the laptop and put it through the XRay machine separately. They WILL rip your bag apart to find it, so make sure she removes it. Trust me.
posted by GilloD at 5:56 PM on June 23, 2007


My first commercial flight was in December of 2001, I was 21 and going alone, and yes, I was scared. However, I chose to fly out of a smaller airport (South Bend, Indiana, instead of Chicago or Indianapolis) specifically so I wouldn't deal with so much stress. It turned out that the boarding area where I had to wait had glass walls separating it from the non-secure area, so my mom got to wait with me just on the other side of the glass. It's too late now to change your daughter's airport, but just something to keep in mind for the future.

If it makes you feel better, I told my seat neighbor that it was my first flight. She turned out to be college-aged too, and had flown several times. She was very nice and offered to hold my hand if I needed it (I didn't) and explained all the noises to me as we took off.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:20 AM on June 24, 2007


If she's 18 I really think you should try not to hover over her and try to control every factor. She's a grown-up and can navigate an airport all by herself! It's this kind of thing that causes the "helicopter parent" syndrome -- working in a university I see the results of that every day and it ain't pretty.

This answers the questions "is it overbearing to accompany my 18-year-old to the gate upon her departure" Not "do I need a ticket to get through airport security." Unless I just dump her in a cab and say "see ya!" I clearly have to part with her somewhere. I just wanted to know where. Now I know. I think you're concerned about my obsessing, but truly, my daughter gets that about me. Frankly, Mefi's great responses allowed me to obsess without her knowing.

Most answers very helpful. She got off fine, went through security without a hitch. Unfortunately, the tour booked her just one hour to make the connection, which we had no control over. I'll report back if she has any experiences that support, confirm, or contradict any of the great advice we got here. Thanks again, everyone.
posted by nax at 1:10 PM on June 24, 2007


Unfortunately, the tour booked her just one hour to make the connection, which we had no control over.

It will need to be at least double that coming back into the U.S. or she's likely to miss her connecting flight.
posted by oaf at 3:42 PM on June 24, 2007


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