How Early Do You Really Need To Be At Billings Airport
Most airlines tell you to arrive at the airport two hours prior to departure and for many airports, that is sound advice. As for our airport here in Billings, I had gotten a little spoiled - showing up only 45 minutes before departure and still spending 30 minutes of that waiting at the gate.
Last Sunday was different and it cost me quite a bit of money. Normally, I travel lightly and don't check any bags, but that simply wasn't a possibility this time. I had two bags to check for my daughter and me. I did all the paperwork and payment ($30 per bag each way) online, so I figured it wouldn't be much of a slowdown at the airport. Here's what I didn't know: The ticketing counter where you check your bags closes 40 minutes before the flight. I was running five minutes late based on my "early enough" time ( about an hour and 20 minutes based on the airline's recommended time) and there was no one at the counter. I went into panic mode because I thought I might actually manage to miss the flight. I headed to TSA and didn't even think about the items that I had packed in the baggage I intended to check....big mistake.
Both bags were pulled by TSA. At this point, I still wasn't thinking about what was in them...I just thought it was something that didn't look quite right (I travel with audio equipment). When the TSA person walked over to me holding my pocket knife, leatherman and a bunch of various gels and liquids I thought, "uh oh...I've got some explaining to do." The agent was actually very understanding, but there was no way I could get my stuff back. He told me that they would be dropped into a box that they can't open and I simply had to forfeit them. Grand total of my items was around $200 bucks. It wasn't fun to let all that go, but I was grateful to not be sitting in a room getting interrogated by guys with suits and dark glasses.
Lesson learned: Even at Billings Logan International Airport, you should be at least an hour early.
One closing thought: FedEx, or some such shipping company, should have a little kiosk at TSA. This was the first time it happened to me, but I'd bet it happens daily across the country. If I had the option to step aside, drop my contraband in a little box, swipe my card and affix a label I would have paid to do so. Or I suppose I could just show up on time.