Running it late for your flight and cutting it close? We've all been there. Here's what to do, and how to get through security and on your flight, before it leaves.
Before You Go
Check your flight status before you leave. After a few recent incidents, we've gotten into the habit of loading up the flight status page on our airline's website the night before our flight, so that all we have to do is hit refresh in the morning. Of course, you can't count on a convenient flight delay if you're running late, but taking two seconds to double check doesn't require too much extra effort.
Get your mobile boarding pass. It's basic but important. Checking in online and getting a mobile boarding pass means not having to stand in the kiosk lines at the airport (or tracking down a printer at the hotel). These days, dedicated apps make checking in pretty easy, especially if you have an app account with your preferred airline. App not working? Try checking in via a mobile browser. This worked for us recently, when an app wouldn't let us check in after we called to make some last-minute flight changes.
About that Bag...
Ditch checked bags and only take a carry-on. This doesn't really work as a last-minute decision, but we wanted to mention one awesome perk of carrying-on only: heading right to security, once you have your boarding pass.
If you do have checked bags, consider curbside check-in where available. Yes, remember that service? Many airlines still do it. It might cost you a few extra bucks, plus tips, but it's worth it to make your flight.
Forget the bags entirely. If you're desperate to make a flight, and it's not important that your checked luggage gets there at exactly the same time that you do, let the ticket agent know that it's fine for the bags to follow you on the next flight out.
Getting Through Security
First and foremost -- tell someone that your flight is taking off soon! Find a TSA agent, explain the specifics, and ask if they can help you get through (a.k.a. skip to the front of) the line. An airline agent at the check-in counter can also help with this. Don't forget to smile and be polite...
Look for alternative checkpoints. Some bigger airports and terminals have multiple security checkpoints with access to the same gates. People naturally flock to the closest or most central one. Don't get stuck there. See if an agent can point you to a less-crowded one -- just make sure you can get to your gate from any other checkpoint that you find.
Pay for an upgrade to get in the expedited lane. If you're not already enrolled in a program that gets you into the TSA PreCheck lane, you might be able to buy access to another expedited line. Airlines will often have a separate security line for first or business class travelers, for example. In a more affordable example, JetBlue also has an Even More Speed option that essentially gets any ticketholder into an expedited line for $10-$15 (currently included if you have an Even More Space seat).
Implore travelers in line. No guarantees here, but hopefully other travelers around you will have some sympathy for your plight. Try something along the lines of: "So sorry, my flight is boarding right now, would you mind terribly if I went around you?"
Flight Change Reminder
If you have some flexibility in your schedule and would rather just change your flight, remember that you only have until the gate closes -- not until your flight departs -- before you forfeit your entire ticket. The timing varies by each route, but note that small flights especially may close earlier if everyone else has boarded.