U.S. Airports Ease Carry-on Liquid Ban

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Beginning today, airline passengers may carry travel-size toiletries through security. Passengers may also carry-on beverages and other liquid items purchased in the secure boarding area, according to new rules issued Monday by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The revised rules apply to all domestic and international flights departing U.S. airports.

In order to pass through security, travel-sized toiletries of 3 ounces or less must be fit comfortably in a single clear zip-top bag, no larger than 7.5 inches tall, by 8 inches wide (quart-size). When passing through security checkpoints, the bag must be removed from carry-on luggage and placed in a separate bin on the conveyor belt for easier inspection. Larger amounts of prescription liquid medication, baby formula and diabetic glucose treatments will also be permitted but must be declared at the security checkpoint for additional screening.

Beverages or other liquid items purchased in the secure boarding area after passengers have passed through the security checkpoint, are for use on the immediate flight. Quantities should be limited to what is needed for the duration of the flight. Should the passenger leave the secure boarding area, they must re-enter through the security checkpoint and items exceeding 3 ounces that are not in the clear zip-top bag are prohibited.

The ban on liquids, aerosols and gels was implemented on August 10 after a terrorist plot was foiled in the United Kingdom. A more extensive analysis of the information obtained from the disruption of the plot, as will as extensive explosives testing, has led to the loosening of the ban. The changes are intended to enhance security and balance human needs as a result of better understanding of the threat and potential security risks associated with liquids, aerosols and gels. It is unlikely that additional changes to this policy will be made in the near future.

The effect of the total ban on liquids is not yet known. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that U.S. airlines carried 369.5 million domestic and international travelers during the first six months of 2006. That is an increase of nearly 1 percent over the same period in 2005. The majority of the increase came from the international passenger rate, with 5.9 percent more traveling in 2006 than in 2005. Only 0.2 percent more domestic passengers were carried by U.S. airlines during this period. In the first six months of 2006, U.S. carriers operated 5.2 million domestic and international flights, down 4.6 percent from the same period in 2005. The number of domestic flights declined 5.6 percent, while the number of international flights rose 2.6 percent over the same period.

Despite the modest increase in passenger rates, a group of 21 selected passenger airlines reported a domestic operating profit margin of 7.9 percent during the second quarter of 2006. This is the largest profit margin reported for this group since the second quarter of 2000 and the first profit margin reported since the second quarter of 2005, according to preliminary data released by the BTS earlier this month. The 21-carrier group consists of the seven largest network, low-cost and regional carriers, based on operating revenues. Network carriers operate a significant portion of their flights using at least one hub where connections are made for flights on a spoke system. Low cost carriers are those that the industry generally recognizes as operating under a low-cost business model. Regional carriers provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets. Airlines in the group of 21 to report operating loss margins included low-cost Spirit Airlines and ATA airlines. Network carrier Continental also reported an operating loss. Low cost Southwest Airlines, network carrier Northwest Airlines and regional carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines reported the top operating profit margins for the second quarter of 2006. Atlantic Southeast is also among the three regional carriers reporting the top passenger revenue yields. The others were Comair and American Eagle Airlines. Northwest reported the highest revenue yield for any network carrier. The lowest passenger revenue yields were ATA, JetBlue and Frontier Airlines.

In order to make the security screening process as smooth and swift as possible, the TSA recommends passengers take the following steps:

  • De-clutter carry-on bags to allow TSA staff a clear, uncomplicated X-ray image of the carry-on and contents.
  • Continue packing liquids in checked baggage whenever possible.
  • Limit quantities of liquids, aerosols and gels to what is needed during the duration of the flight.

International travelers should check with the transportation security authorities in their country of origin regarding security measures for flights originating at non-U.S. airports.

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