Advice to fliers: Leave liquids, bring patience

Rules for carry-on items will get stricter, security tighter, waits longer, experts say

War On Terrorism

August 11, 2006|By DAN THANH DANG | DAN THANH DANG,SUN REPORTER

Travelers expecting to fly soon should refrain from stuffing carry-on baggage with fluids, gels or any other product that might be considered liquid, but they should be prepared to bring along a lot of patience, airline officials warned yesterday.

Handbags and carry-on items are still permitted on most airlines, but fliers should check items such as shampoo, creams, toothpaste, hair gel and all beverages, according to Transportation Security Administration guidelines for baggage.

Although most domestic and overseas flights only banned liquids and gels, British Airways went a step further yesterday and established more rigorous restrictions that prohibited all cabin baggage, including handbags, and all electrical or battery-powered items such as laptops, mobile phones, iPod and remote controls.

All these items must be checked into cargo.

Security measures continue to be tightened at airports around the world after a terrorism plot was thwarted in London yesterday. Airlines advised that the level of frustration and length of time to get through security will most likely be determined by where passengers are flying and how well they've packed for the trip.

"Certainly, there are more stringent rules that are in place now, and we do anticipate that this will have an impact on wait times," says TSA spokesman Amy Kudwa.

"We're asking passengers to get to the airport at least two hours ahead of time. We're asking them to reduce the clutter in their bags to help expedite the screening process. And we're asking them to please cooperate with our security work force.

"This is the busiest travel month of the summer, so we do ask that people be patient, but we also need to stress that these are precautionary measures that are necessary due to the terrorism plot uncovered over in the U.K.," Kudwa says.

The ban meant fliers dumping untold numbers of water bottles, soft drinks, coffee, hand lotions, perfumes, colognes and most other body care or beauty products all around the nation's airports yesterday.

Whether flying domestically or overseas, the only exceptions to the liquids ban include baby formula, breast milk or juice if a baby or small child is also traveling; prescription medicine labeled with a name that matches the passenger's ticket; and insulin or other essential nonprescription medicines.

"I think we want all the conveniences of home," says Debbie Scott, manager of communications and media relations for Icelandair The Americas, which is based in Columbia. "You don't want to waste the time at the airport to wait for baggage claim. But this is really all part of the process now. Airlines and the TSA have been putting restrictions on how much baggage you can take for quite some time now."

British Airways was alone, however, in issuing a very spare list of what passengers traveling to and from the U.K. may take with them on board in a plastic carrier bag. Those items include: pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses allowed to hold money, credit cards, identity cards; travel documents such as passports or tickets essential for the journey; prescription medicines and medical items verified as authentic; spectacles and sunglasses without cases; contact lens holders without bottles of solution; unboxed female sanitary items sufficient for the flight; unboxed tissues and handkerchiefs; and keys without electrical fobs.

Although baby formula and breast milk are also permitted on British Airways, the airline's Web site said it will require the contents of each bottle be tasted by the accompanying child for an extra measure of security.

"No books," says John W. Lampl, a spokesman for British Airways. "The items listed are the only things allowed on the plane. You can still bring all those things, but you must check them. If you are confused about anything, you should leave it home or check it to be safe."

It should be noted that all travelers leaving from the U.K. will be subject to the more stringent British Airways rules, regardless of which company they are flying with, airline officials said.

It is still unclear how long the liquid ban will remain in place, Kudwa and airline officials say, but passengers are urged to check with their carrier before flying for updated information.

For example, yesterday some airlines were requiring passengers to arrive three hours ahead of their scheduled flight departure.

Airports will use extra security measures to monitor all baggage and passengers very closely, says Kudwa. Passengers should prepare to have their handbag searched at the checkpoint and at the gate prior to boarding, says Kudwa, who declined to provide details as to what other safety steps might entail.

"Today's the first day of an evolving story," Lampl says. "We're not sure how long the new rules will last, but we are saying: Travel. Don't cancel. It's even more safe now than it was yesterday."

dan.thanh.dang@baltsun.com

For more information on packing restrictions, visit www.tsa.gov/press/where_we_stand/security_measures.shtm

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