How much sooner do you need to get to the airport?

Angus Kidman 30 July 2017

Security at Australian airports has been beefed up, so get ready to queue.

Following a series of arrests in Sydney, security procedures at domestic and international airports in Australia have been "enhanced", and passengers are being advised that they should arrive 2 hours ahead of their flight. But just how much has really changed?

The new procedures have kicked in from today (Sunday 30 July). As it happens, I'm booked to go on a flight today, so I awoke to a text and an email from my airline:

The Australian Government has introduced additional aviation security measures for both international and domestic terminals at Australia's major airports. The travelling public can expect to experience an increased level of security scrutiny at the airport but they should not be concerned about these precautionary measures. As the measures place an additional burden on the screening system, it may take a little longer than usual to get through the process. Passengers should arrive to the airport at least 2 hours prior to scheduled time of departure to allow time for security screening. Passengers should limit the amount of carry-on and checked baggage they travel with as this will help to ensure security screening is efficient.

Note there are no new rules regarding what you can actually take in your carry-on luggage. There's still no ban on liquids over 100ml for domestic flights, which is good news for people like me who don't want to pay excessive baggage fees. But I'm still paranoid enough that I made sure I was actually at the airport 2 hours before my flight was due to depart.

At first glance, this seemed a good move, since the queues seemed a little longer than usual and the security guard was busy directing people to join the very long lines. In reality, though, it wasn't a major disruption. On a good day, I can get through domestic airport security in under 5 minutes. Today it took perhaps 10 minutes. That's not worth worrying about. There was no obvious difference in the process, other than it being a little slower, presumably because the bag scanners are looking even more carefully at the X-rays.

That said, I was at the airport on a Sunday morning, which isn't exactly peak hour. I suspect the lines could get much longer at busier times. And my natural inclination is to plan to be at the airport a couple of hours early anyway. That way, if there's an unexpected issue (like a cancelled train), I'm not going to miss my flight. For now, I'll stick to paranoid timing.

So yes that's potentially annoying, but it could be much more disruptive. We haven't yet seen laptops banned as carry-on luggage for international flights out of Australia, which was threatened earlier in the year. Given that even the US has eased up on its ban for flights from the Middle East, it seems less likely. But as today's change reminds us, airport security rules can change rapidly.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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