As record numbers of fliers jam up TSA lines, here’s how to breeze through

For anyone who flies regularly, long security lines at airports are a painful norm. But with more of us traveling by air — especially with the upcoming summer season, when a record 220 million-plus travelers are expected to fly — we can expect things to get worse before they get better. At airports throughout the nation, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been grappling with a shortage of agents to deal with the influx of passengers, which has resulted in incredibly long lines that have forced passengers to endure hourslong waits or even miss their flights.

Just how bad has it become? Last month, in Chicago, 450 American Airlines passengers couldn’t make their flights due to security wait times. American says 6,800 of its passengers across the U.S. missed flights during the week of March 14-20. It’s so bad that American Airlines plans to hire security staff at its major hubs to relieve TSA agents from nonessential duties. The trade group Airlines for America even launched a website and hashtag (#ihatethewait) to encourage passengers to vent their frustration via Twitter or Instagram.

Besides an increase in travelers and a decrease in personnel — due to budget cuts and other missteps — the TSA said more carry-on bags at security checkpoints and more robust screening have also contributed to the long lines. “Individuals who come to the TSA checkpoint unprepared for a trip can have a negative impact on the time it takes to complete the screening process,” the TSA said, in a press release. The TSA is working on remedying the problem, however. It plans to hire more than 700 agents, increase overtime, and utilize bomb-sniffing dogs. Unfortunately, TSA needs approval from Congress before it can initiate any changes, and the TSA isn’t exactly well-loved in Washington.

Some experts recommend you just stay calm and carry on, but it doesn’t help when you’re still stuck in line and you have to board a plane in the next half-hour. The key, experts agree, is to prepare beforehand. By following a few basic tips, you can easily beat your fellow passengers to the finish line.