Tips from a pro on flying through the airport

CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg knows the causes of common delays at airports. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — It takes a certain strategy to avoid long waits, wrong gates and high rates during the summer travel season.

What may seem like the logical options to the untrained travel eye may actually result in summertime sadness — “We missed our flight!”

Take the security checkpoint, for example. Most people intuitively dart for the shortest line.


“It’s not about the length of the line; it’s about the number of TSA agents looking at those computer monitors by the baggage conveyor belts,” says Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel editor.

“If there’s one guy looking at that computer monitor, I don’t care how long the line is — that’s the line I’m going to pick,” he says.

While other lines may be shorter, if two agents are peering at the computer monitors, it suggests that one is being trained. The result: Travelers will wait longer while the trainee gets pointers and rechecks luggage.

Once in the terminal, Greenberg says, the first place travelers usually go is really the last place that can help them (apart from a restroom run): The departures boards may not have the most accurate information.

“If the airlines were controlling the shipping business, the Titanic would be listed as on time,” he says, deadpan.

Instead, he suggests a conversation, either with an airline representative on the phone, or ideally, someone at the airline lounge.

The arrivals board will be more useful than the departures board, he says. Check the status of the flight set to arrive at the gate you’re scheduled to depart.

“If nothing’s arriving at that gate until next Tuesday, why would you ever go to that gate?” he says.

Since most airlines have started charging for checked bags, Greenberg has ways to avoid getting “hosed.”

Certain credit cards offer benefits that include one or more free checked bags. If more plastic isn’t your thing, passengers can also ship their luggage via FedEx, UPS and other carriers to save the extra wait time at check-in.

For about $30 more than the cost of a checked bag, the luggage can be sent right to the hotel, he says.

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