The biggest downside to going through security can be the long lines. At larger airports on heavy travel days security wait times can be well over an hour. Planning ahead and being at the airport early is important to being at the gate on time. I have a sister-in-law who found this out the hard way when she missed her flight to Hawaii and had to come back the next day.
There is some relief available to travelers now. TSA has a program knows as Pre Check. A traveler who is on the Pre Check program goes to a line just for them, which is much shorter than the standard lines. Additionally, in this line people are not required to remove their belts, shoes or light jackets, provided these items do not set off the metal detectors. In the standard line people are required to remove computers and liquids from their bags and put these items in a separate bin for scanning. Travelers who are Pre Check approved are not required to remove these things from their bags.
Using Pre Check can greatly reduce time and hassles while going though security when traveling on the airlines. The main qualification for applying for this benefit is the applicant cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. The details can be found on TSA's website, TSA.gov.
Now that you are through security you have to find your gate. Keep in mind that flights can change gates. Even though the gate number may be on your boarding pass check the boards at the airport for any changes. Personally, I use FlightTrack, an iPhone application that gives me gate information on all flights. It is normally up to date, but occasionally has some misinformation. Keep in mind when you get to the gate that if there is a change in gates that the gate agent has nothing to do with the change. I cannot begin to guess the number of times I have heard somebody being rude with a gate agent simply because there was a gate change.
Gate agents have one of the most difficult jobs in the airline industry. These people take horrendous verbal abuse by frustrated passengers for events that the agents have no control over. For people who do not travel often, remember that once you have a boarding pass that you do not have to check in with the agent when you get to the gate. The way to know for sure if you have a boarding pass is that if you are through security you have a boarding pass. No one is allowed through security without a boarding pass. The boarding pass will have your seat assignment printed on it, unless you are standby or traveling on SouthWest airiness. SouthWest does not assign seats and has an open seating policy. A SouthWest boarding pass will have a boarding position on it.
Another way to speed things up at the airport is to print your boarding pass at home. Simply go to the airline's website and find the link for checking in for a flight. This feature is available within 24 hours of departure of you flight. You can also avoid checking bags in at the airport and go strait through security if you take bags that are carry on size. The standard carry on bag size is no larger than 9" X 14" X 22". You are allowed to carry one two bags. If you are on a trip with connecting flights and do not wish to carry your larger carry on bag on and off airplanes you can choose to gate check your bags all the way through to your destination. The gate agents will normally make an announcement regarding this on full flights. You will not be charged a bag fee if you decide to do this. Do not confuse this with a gate check bag on regional aircraft that you pick the bag up at the gate at the end of that flight. Simply ask your gate agent if you gate check where you will pick your bag up when you gate check it.
I hope this information will be helpful for people who do not travel on a regular basis.