Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal A travel tips


The line for going through the security checkpoint at Terminal A of Newark Liberty International Airport splits into three lines after you get through the ID check. When you get to the decision point, they all look the same, but don't be fooled.

             ID  / 3 ----------------------------------X
>>>-----------|--  2 ------------------------X
           check \ 1 -------------X

Take line 1. As you can see, it is a much shorter wait than the others.

If you observe carefully as you get into line, you'll see that all the people in business suits are in line 1. That's because the business travelers know this secret and the tourists don't.

The lines are uneven due to space constraints. In reality, the corridor looks more like this:

             ID  / 3 -----------------------------------XXXXXXXXX---
>>>-----------|--  2 ------------------------XXXXXXXXX  XXXXXXXXX 
           check \ 1 -------------XXXXXXXXX  XXXXXXXXX--------------
                                  XXXXXXXXX-------------------------

(I still call it Newark International Airport, since that's the name it had when I lived in New Jersey.)

Comments (35)
  1. -Wang-Lo says:

    I believe you when you say the lines look alike but line 1 is shorter — but your diagram fails to clarify the reason. In the diagram, the number of hyphens in each line is identical. What do the Xs represent? Inquiring minds wish to know.

    -Wang-Lo.

  2. I was in Dublin, Ireland yesterday. The weird thing about the security check was that they require you to take your shoes off (I guess because of the possible blades in the shoes ?).

    They also require you to take notebooks out of its bag/case to pass the check.

    I was used to taking off my jacket and belt. But now the shoes

    The place looks more like a changeroom than like an airport. And don’t tell me it’s the price to pay for security : I carefully observed the guy behind the screen. He didn’t look his screen at all for more than half of screened items :-(

  3. Logan says:

    Wang-Lo: The X’s are the actual security checkpoints. Security checkpoint #3 is much farther away from the ID check than #1, thus there’s far more room for a line to form.

    Serge: I’ve travelled several times in the last few years, all in the US. I’ve had to take my laptop out, also (JFK has signs telling you to do this), and once or twice I’ve had my shoes inspected. The shoe inspection is thanks to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Reid">Richard Reid</a>.

  4. julian_t says:

    Serge said: "I was in Dublin, Ireland yesterday. The weird thing about the security check was that they require you to take your shoes off (I guess because of the possible blades in the shoes ?)"

    Or bombs – remember the guy with the explosives in his trainers? I guess they’re just looking for shoes that appear to have been tampered with.

    Let’s just hope no-one tries to hide a bomb in their underwear… :-)

  5. James Curran says:

    Raymond:

    You used to live in NJ? I knew there was something I liked about you…..

    Wang-Lo:

    I believe the XXX are the X-ray machines/Metal detectors (ie, the point, beyond which, you can move freely).

    Serge:

    In the US, we’ve been ask to remove our shoes at security checkpoints, particularly after Richard Reid (the "shoe bomber") was arrested 22-Dec-2001. (But I flew in Nov-2001, and I’m pretty sure I had to remove my shoes then). These days it’s loosen up a bit, so that I’m only asked to remove my shoes when I’m wearing a brand (such as Rockports) known to steel re-enforce the sole.

  6. Ben Fulton says:

    I wonder if it’s a general rule to look for the line with the most suits in it?

  7. -Wang-Lo. says:

    Thanks Logan and James. I misread the diagram and thought the people were moving from right to left. Now that I have noticed the arrows that Raymond thoughtfully included, I think it’s quite clear.

    -Wang-Lo.

  8. Mark Boyle says:

    Serge Wautier

    "I was in Dublin, Ireland yesterday. The weird thing about the security check was that they require you to take your shoes off."

    The first time I was asked to take my shoes off was the U.S. back in 2003. Dublin followed about a year later, probably working on the ‘if someone else does it, it must be right’ assumption :-)

  9. James Schend says:

    Last time I went through security, there was a officer tell people which line to use. (Sea-Tac airport is arranged similar to the diagram.) Except when I got to the front of the line, he had walked away and didn’t tell me which line to go in… so I just followed the guy in front of me. The people behind me just followed me. About a minute later, he comes back to his post and tells the guy still line line to go to another line because "some idiot" went to the first line.

    Yeah, he called me an idiot because he wasn’t doing his goddamned job. I filed a complaint with the TSA, but you know that they never read those things, and I doubt that officer got reprimanded.

    Anyway, I hate airports now. I used to come to them just to watch the planes take off and land, but now it’s just a crappy, ugly, depressing, and humiliating experience.

  10. Anonymous Coward says:

    I’ll never forget my first time leaving the Denver International Airport by car. All traffic used to flow through toll gates. There was actually a sign that said "Choose the shortest line for the shortest wait," or words to that affect.

    It blew me away…and then I noticed there were two lines with twelve cars each, and five gates with no line.

    I think the combination of jet lag and adjusting to rental cars has something to do with it…or maybe dealing with lines and tolls a lot in the city improves your processing of the situation (or just shortens your waiting tolerance to a very small degree).

  11. bramster says:

    Raymond. . .

    Tell Bill you need to use the Company Jet. That way you won’t have to wait in any lines. You go to a different part of the airport where the smart people are.

  12. Alex says:

    I’m still not getting the graph, but I imagine that’s because the exact arrangement of the corridor is hard to represent with ASCII art.

    As for DIA — the original design, with all traffic flowing through the toll gates was hilarious. You’ve have 2 lanes branch out to around 12 toll booths in the course of 500 feet, and then BACK together in the same amount.

    Oh, and the road was dimly lit.

    It felt like some sort of strange rally race, because you had to look left and right and all around to see where cars were coming from.

  13. James says:

    In August I went to Disney World. When we were at the Orlando Airport returning home we ended up going through the "Super Secure Strip Search" (My boarding pass had the code "SSSS" on it). At first I was disappointed figuring this was going to take a while. The security office pointed out that we essentially moved to the front of the line and passed through security even faster because of the intense security check.

    Conclusion sometimes no line is better than the short one! :)

  14. Gene says:

    Yeah, I’ve quit flying. Work tries to get me to fly places, but I refuse to deal with the security crap.

    Take off my SHOES?!? WHAT? Bite me!

    I remember the time the guard insisted that I power up my ancient Pentium I laptop, then got pissed when it took a long time to shut down. This is after I already warned him that it would do that. I also refused to move out of the way until it shut down properly.

    And people wonder why airlines are going bankrupt. Good riddance, I say.

    Anyway, there’s a lot of "you want me to fly 500 miles to show me something that you could show me in 10 minutes over the net with AIM and netmeeting?" factor around here too.

    Whenever they insist, I derail it by saying "gee, it’ll take a long time to drive that far…"

  15. oldnewthing says:

    AC: I think the explanation for line blinders is much simpler. You’re in an unfamiliar airport. You see two lines of cars leading to toll booths and five open booths. Do you take the chance on an open booth, only to find out when you get there that there’s a sign that says "Monthly Pass Holders Only" or "Truck Lane"? Or do you play it safe and stick with the line of cars?

  16. Cooney says:

    I have an idea for improving security:

    Remove the security checkpoints. Ban firearms and explosives, but encourage knives (pass them out if you like). Nobody’s going to successfully hijack a US plane anyway, so why bother the passengers.

  17. Mike Dunn says:

    The policy at LAX is that you don’t have to take off sneakers. So what I do now is just keep my shoes on (and always wear sneakers) and only take them off if I’m asked to. I’ve only been asked to take them off once so far (at Seatac).

  18. Larry says:

    I know, airports can be such a pain. Last time I flew, this guy was being a real jerk. The security asked him nicely to take off his shoes, and the guy snapped back, "bite me". Then they did a routine inspection of his laptop, and he refused to move out of the way while it shut down. He kept the entire line waiting for five minutes and caused me to miss my flight. No wonder airlines are going bankrupt – there’s always some jerk ruining the experience for the rest of us.

  19. Schwallex says:

    Raymond, I am awfully sorry, but I’m still missing your entire point.

    In your sketch, the line labeled 1 is obvously shorter, so I’d obviously line up there. Where’s "the secret"?

    I’ve read Logan’s amendment, and I’ve cleaned both my glasses and the monitor, but I just don’t get it.

    Or do you mean that people think "hmm, that checkpoint no. 3 is the fartherst away down the corridor, thus it’s the closest to my goal (while the checkpoint no. 1 is the closest, thus it’s the farthest away from my goal)"? And they all line up at 3 for that reason alone?

    But that would mean that the people do not at all consider the length of the actual lines in front of the checkpoints.

  20. Anonymous Coward says:

    Larry: Good one! Seriously, that’s the funniest thing I have read on this blog. And Raymond’s pretty funny.

  21. Auuuggggg! Now everyone knows.

    There goes one more shortcut in life. =:80

    -es

  22. Cooney says:

    I believe what’s missing is scale and blocking – standing outside the ID checkpoint, you can’t really see all the way into the security line, so you have to pick blindly.

    Or, as Raymond says, follow the suits – they’ve been here before.

  23. Gene says:

    Larry, I hope I caused someone to miss their flight. I have no problems with causing as much unnecessary hassle as I get.

  24. dt says:

    Schwallex, you /can/ see that line 1 is shorter if you look at the diagram, but you /cannot/ see that if you’re actually standing at the ID check and just see the end of the three lines.

  25. J says:

    I can clear up the mystery as to why you’d pick the longer line 1 instead of the shorter line 3.

    "When you get to the decision point, they all look the same, but don’t be fooled."

    You’re welcome.

  26. Scott says:

    Funny you should post this… our family went through Newark last month. We were all waiting in line, and my mom got pulled off to line 1, while we went to 2 & 3. We figured it was an extra security screening, but no, it was just another, shorter line that they were trying to get people to use. It was actually shorter than the other two on both ends.

  27. John Walker says:

    Raymond,

    As a Hoboken boy who travels via Newark frequently it’s nice to know the secret of Terminal A. I go through Terminal C more often.

    As an aside, I recently traveled through Pittsbugh Airport and I chose not to take off my shoes since I know they get through the scanner with no problem. As I was about to enter, the security guy asked me to take them off. I informed him politely that I knew they would go through fine since I travel often in them. He said OK and I walked through with no beeps, at which time he asked me to go take my shoes off and have a full security review. I passed with flying colors. Woo hoo!

    I appreciate the more rigorous security we’re seeing, but this just seemed like a big F you by the security guy. Ah well, I was early anyway and got on standby.

  28. TC says:

    I like the old suggestion that you should always carry a b**b on a plane, because the chance of there being /two/ people with a b**b on the same plane, is less than the chance of there just being /one/ :-)

  29. brad says:

    I happened to fly out of Newark last Friday. I picked line 2 – line 1 had a sign something like "Executive Screening". Line 1 was definitely shorter, but I got thru quicker – some poor line 1 guy was getting the full meal deal from security.

  30. Ajay Kalra says:

    I have flown few times over last year from this airport. My destination was a more friendly Portland, OR (PDX). At Newark, I was not required to take shoes off. But if you did not take them off(which I did not(the first time)), you would spent almost 5 extra minutes as they would take your shoes to some special place for god knows what. Needless to say, I took my shoes off each subsequent time without asking. I did notice afterwards that lots of people simply had shoes in their hand before they reach the security check point.

    Newark was still quicker for security check compare to PDX/Seattle airport. For me Seattle was the most time consuming.

  31. Vince P says:

    I do occasional biz-related flying within the US. Ever since 9/11, I have had to do the SSSS inspection for every flight. I think I have been on 10 flights now. At first I figured I was always being "randomly" selected because males in their 20s were suspicious of being Richard Reids (that f’ing idiot). But after a while I sorta caught on that I’M BEING INSPECTED FOR EVERY FLIGHT I’M EVER ON. And then one day I followed the ID checker’s eye and saw she read the corner of the boarding pass.

    I bristle with anger when they tell me the airline selected me,… the TSA did. I guess I could follow their procedure to get off whatever list i’m on, but I rather just not fly at all.

  32. Ben Bryant says:

    When you don’t know the specific place and can’t see the layout ahead of time, I find the general rule is to go to the furthest line from where the single line splits into many at customs or security. There seems to be psychological urge to choose a line and stick with it as you reach one of the shorter lines, only to realize that the next one is even shorter and so on.

  33. Schwallex says:

    dt, I’ve never been to the said airport — but from my experience with Moscow and Frankfurt I would just look over_the_heads of the people to determine which line is the shortest. That’s my secret approach. :-) But anyway, thanks for the clarification.

  34. Rune says:

    I’m sick and tired of all that security nonsense.

    They’ve reinforced the cockpit door, that should suffice plenty! I’m more than willing to take my chances with ten Al-Qaida terrorists should they share my flight, but I’m not so sure I want to go through all that security hassle for another five or ten years. :(

    I get the distinct impression that most people believe security is about making life difficult for ordinary people. Instead of finding the root cause… (you generate a stronger moneyflow the more hurdles you add, which is a strong incentive for some)

  35. inw says:

    La Guardia is the same.

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