On a recent trip to Europe that required me to head over to Terminal 5 for my trans-atlantic flight, I was told by a security screener that not all screening equipment is created equal and that there is a bit of ‘secret’ when trying to clear security as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Terminal 5, also know as the International Terminal, is laid out in such a manner that makes it difficult to have multiple security lines based on status levels or class of travel.   Due to the physical bottleneck at security screening, most of the time all passengers are herded through only 2 lines that head toward the screening equipment.   There is a Business / First Class ‘Express’ lane that’s open occasionally based on the timing of some flight departures, but I’ve never seen it open and I have many departures from T-5 under my belt.  Nor is there a Pre-Check lane for those of us enrolled in the program since most international airlines are not enrolled, except for Lufthansa as far as Euro carriers are concerned.

As I was saying, on my last trip to Europe I was flying out of Terminal 5 so I figured I had to endure the long security lines without much chance of being to clear the line faster than anyone else.   Once I got past the point where my Passport and ID are checked, I made my way to the security scanners.   I chose to go the far right of the screening area since the line was shortest.  I also applied the stereotyping process used in ‘Up In The Air’ to avoid the families that seemed to be traveling for the first time ever and would have little clue how to handle security.   I chose the line that had the kind of people in it that I thought would know what they’re doing.   Glad I did.

When I came to the tray to put on my bags and began to reach for my shoes, the agent told me to keep my shoes and belt on.   Of course I had to ask why since I hadn’t seen any new rules regarding passenger screening.   The agent indicated that the scanner that I was going to go through was dialed up with stronger screening ability so that  passengers can leave shoes and belts on during screen.   Great…kind of a ‘Pre-Check’ lite!   I still needed to take my electronics out, but thats a small price to pay in order to keep my shoes and belt on.

I asked her why the difference and she simply replied that the 2 machines at the far right of the screening area are dialed up to help increase the flow of passenger screening during peak time and are sometimes used as overflow lanes to get people through faster.

So what does all this mean?

The next time you have a T-5 departure from O’Hare, pay attention when you pass through the ID/Passport check.   May your way to the 2 scanners at the far right of the screening area.  There’s a chance that you’ll have a much easier time getting through screening without going through all the steps that everyone else has to endure (shoes/belts,etc).

Now keep in mind that this is just my experience and ‘Your Mileage May Vary’, but I doubt that the scanners are re-adjusted too many times.   If the scanners are open, head there.   If not, pay attention to the scanner lines to see if any of them are letting passengers keep their shoes on.   You just might have a slightly easier time of clearing security in a Terminal where it’s normally not easy to do.