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Airport FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions about airport travel for students attending the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.


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Be prepared. Before you get to the airport, take the necessary precautions to make your experience as simple as possible.

When should I get to the airport?
Arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure, especially if you are traveling with a large delegation or carrying a toolbox. Generally, planes begin boarding 30 minutes before takeoff. Double-check your departure time and gate, and allow plenty of time to pass through security lines to get to your assigned gate.

  • Wear practical shoes. Slip-on shoes will be easier to remove quickly. Of course, make sure they are comfortable enough for standing in long security lines. Make removing your shoes easy. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires passengers to remove their shoes when passing through the metal detector. There is not much room to squat down. People will try to pass around you and benches are inconveniently far from your bags. Wear shoes that you can slip off without bending down or undo your laces before getting in line and tuck them into your shoe. This way you will be able to slip them off easily to be place on the X-ray belt.
  • Avoid metallic clothing or accessories, as you will have to remove these before going through a metal detector. The same goes for metal items in your pockets.
  • Package liquids and gels appropriately. All liquids in your carry-on bag must be in bottles of three ounces or less, and all these bottles must then be placed in a clear, quart-size, zip-style plastic bag. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including milk for infants and liquid medications, but be sure to check before you pack anything.
  • Each passenger is expected to remove jackets, sweaters, cell phone/clips, pagers, keys, sun glasses, purses from their person and submit to the X-ray system along with any carry-on luggage.
  • Remove the necessary items from your carry-on as soon as you get to the belt, placing these items, along with your carry-on, directly on the belt or in the provided bins. Most airports require that you remove the plastic bag full of liquids; camera and your laptop from your carry-on bag, but be sure to follow instructions.

Pack your belongings in an organized way, so that if there is a problem, they can open your bag, check things out and move on.

Avoid contraband. Check beforehand to make sure that anything you will bring along, whether in r checked luggage or carry-on is allowed on the plane. Otherwise, you may be forced to throw away these items or even face questioning or prosecution.

Make sure you have your boarding pass and Photo ID (driver's license or passport*) in your hand or pocket before you get in the security line. The line, although long at times, can move quickly, and seasoned travelers can get irritated with anyone that holds up the line digging for the necessary papers.

Pay close attention to directions while you wait in line. It pays to see what other passengers forget.

Put your boarding pass and ID away as soon as they have been checked. Keep your boarding pass in a pocket, as it will be screened again, but put your ID back into your bag to keep it secure.

Step through the metal detector after an employee of the airport has waved you through. If you are selected for additional screening, comply immediately and politely.  Collect your belongings and put them away.  Making sure you have everything you need, leave the security area quickly, making way for the other passengers.

What is prohibited?
Don’t bring pocketknives; nail clippers, scissors, metal files, box cutters, loose razor blades, aerosol spray cans, lighters, fuel, paint, gasoline-powered tools, fireworks, or anything that might be considered a weapon or a danger on the plane.

What can I bring on the plane?
Most airlines allow one carry-on small suitcase plus one personal item such as a briefcase, backpack, laptop computer, camera bag or purse. You must be able to store carry-on items in the overhead compartment or under the seat. Be prepared to open your bags, empty your pockets or remove your shoes at security checkpoints. Laptops must be out of their case at security. They may be opened up and turned on, so bring a charged battery or an AC power cord. NEW: Liquid gel items (in 3 ounce containers or less) are allowed as carry on as long as everything fits into a clear one quart Ziploc bag.

Contest Tools—You should anticipate that no competition tools or toolboxes will be permitted as carry-on baggage. Tools and tool cases should be packed carefully and checked as part of your luggage. It is better to check tools than to risk a problem at security.
Cosmetology students should pack their styling cases to go with checked luggage, as these contain items that might not pass security. Tool cases could be damaged during the baggage process, so wrap and pack everything carefully. Tool cases may cost extra to check as baggage if they are heavy, oversized or checked in addition to other luggage.

Call the airline ahead of time if you have questions. Consider shipping your tools to the state assigned hotel, separately, ahead of time.

* Steps to obtain a U.S. Passport

Use the link provided below for complete instructions for passport application: 

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