TSA

Long TSA lines? Skip them with this free service

The Memorial Day weekend means longer than usual lines at airport security checkpoints. And if you don’t have TSA PreCheck it’s a good bet you’ll find yourself standing in those very long line.

But there’s a free, ‘secret’ way to bypass those lines at more than 20 airports in North America and Europe.

For travelers without paid memberships in TSA PreCheck or CLEAR, there’s a free virtual cueing program at select airports.

Passengers can go online before they get to the airport – or when they’re at the airport – and reserve a time slot to go through a dedicated lane at the airport.

It’s like a restaurant reservation. And it lets you bypass others waiting in line.

How – and where – to get a reservation to go through airport security and skip the lines

The free airport security line reservation programs are part of Clear RESERVE, which is managed by CLEAR, the company that also runs the paid Clear Plus program that uses fingerprints or eye scans to expedite your checkpoint journey. And to make it just a bit more confusing, the Clear RESERVE program is branded differently at participating airports.

As of May 2024, free timed security checkpoint reservations are being offered at these airports in North America and Europe.

United States

  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
  • New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Canada

  • Calgary International Airport (YYC)
  • Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
  • Halifax International Airport (YHZ)
  • Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
  • Toronto International Airport (YYZ)
  • Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

Europe

  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)
  • Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER)
  • Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
  • Hanover Airport (HAJ)
  • London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
  • Rome Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport (FCO

How to book your free security checkpoint reservation

If the security checkpoint reservation is offered at your departure airport, use the airport or Clear Reserve website to book your time.

Enter your flight and contact information, and if a reservation slot is available, you will receive a confirmation email with a QR code.

When you arrive at the airport, show your QR code at the designated TSA checkpoint lane.

Your reservation will have a 20-minute grace period. But if you have made a group reservation, everyone on the reservation must be there at the appointment time.

Self-service security screening? It’s being tested

Self-service checkout works at the grocery store.

So why not self-service screening at the airport?

That’s what the Transportation Security Administration has in mind.

For the next six months, TSA and the Department of Homeland Security will be testing a self-service checkpoint at Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas.

Starting in mid-March, travelers enrolled in TSA PreCheck will have the option to use TSA’s Innovation Checkpoint at LAS and test out a prototype technology that includes new body scanning technology that lets passengers complete the screening process on their own.

As they do now, travelers will empty their pockets and put all carry-on items into bins that go through the X-ray machines. Then each passenger steps into an enclosed scanning booth.

If, for example, the passenger has left a cell phone in their pocket, the booth directs them to step out, empty their pockets and try again.

The goal, TSA says, is to use this technology to cut down on instances where a TSA agent is required to conduct a pat-down or secondary screening.

Curious about how it works and ready – or not – to give it a try?

Here’s a TV clip from TODAY.

It’s here! TSA’s Top 10 Best Catches of 2023

Throwing knives, replica rockets, a knife hidden in a loaf of bread, meth tucked inside a jar of crab boil spices, and a 35mm projectile.

These are just some of the weird and prohibited items found by the TSA in travelers’ carry-on bags last year.

But wait, there’s more.

A knife hidden in the shoe of a prosthetic, a fully loaded firearm with 166 bullets, an explosive cartridge, hash inside a diaper (!), and an inert explosive device inside of a soda can.

Each year TSA gathers up some of the more bizarre items the agency’s officers encounter at the checkpoints and puts them together in a Top 10 reel.

Take a look. Below the 2023 reel, we’ve added some highlight reels of TSA’s Top Ten Best TSA Catches from past years.

Here’s the TSA Top Catches video that started it all back in 2016. When the charming and goofy Blogger Bob was on duty.

Blogger Bob was back with a great reel of finds in 2017.

Here’s the 2019 edition of the TSA’s Top 10 Finds.

And here’s the reel of TSA’s Top Ten Catches from 2022.

Did you mean to tip the TSA?

At airports, it’s not unusual to hear an announcement asking a traveler to return to the security checkpoint to retrieve a left-behind item.

On Sunday, for example, while waiting for an early morning flight, we heard repeated announcements asking the person who left their wedding band behind at the checkpoint to come and get it.

But we’ve never heard an announcement asking the passenger who left behind 72 cents in the bottom of a checkpoint tray to come back to retrieve that cash.

What happens to all coins and cash left behind?

Turns out, the TSA (not the agents on duty) collects and gets to keep all the cash and coins left in the bins at the security checkpoints. And it can spend the money any way it chooses “to provide civil aviation security.”

How much money are we talking about?

Quite a bit.

In Fiscal Year 2022, travelers left behind cash and coins totaling $835,850.71 at the security checkpoints.

That’s up quite a bit from FY 2021, during which time TSA collected $653,687.64 in unclaimed money.

But not as much as during FY 2019, when $926,030.44 was collected.

According to a report that the Department of Homeland Security submitted to Congress in May 2023, the FY 2022 funds, combined with unclaimed money collected in prior years totaled $2,219,065.74.

Out of that total, the Department of Home Security reports, TSA obligated $995,032.52 in FY 2022 for wireless and telecommunication equipment to support checkpoint operations for field personnel, of which just $1,023.25 was expended during the year.

Where did travelers leave TSA the most tips?

The hub airports where travelers left the largest “tips” for TSA include:

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): $59,980.00

Harry Reid International Airport (LAS): $43,228. 80

Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD): $39,873.68

San Francisco International Airport (SFO): $38,729.92

and Los Angeles International Airport (LOS): $35,019.45

By contrast, only $109.45 in unclaimed funds were left behind at Dallas Love Field (DAL).

TSA’s Cutest Canine Contest

Move over airport therapy dogs. For just a moment.

It’s time to give some love to some of the more than 1000 dogs that work for the Transportation Security Administration sniffing out explosives and the components for explosives in airports around the country.

For several years now, TSA has been hosting an annual Cutest Canine Contest, inviting the public to weigh in on their favorites.

Ebbers, an explosive detection canine working at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) won the contest last year. And now it’s time to pick the cutest K9 for 2023.

This year’s contest is underway, with four finalists in the running:

Zita, a German Shorthair pointer who, like Ebbers, hails from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP);

Dina, a German Shorthaired Pointer who works at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS);

Zeta, (not to be confused with MSP’s Zita) a German Shepherd from Tampa International Airport (TPA);

and Joker-Jordan a Belgian Malinois assigned to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

Voting is taking place on TSA’s various social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and on Facebook.

Cast your vote(s) by Thursday, Aug. 24th at 1 pm (ET). The top dog will be announced on Monday, August 28th.