The Tactical Traveler

Liquids Are Out, But Electronics Are Still Okay
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) imposed its new carry-on rules in the wee small hours of the morning today (August 10), so you can understand the confusion. After all, TSA security screeners seem confused at the best of times. But here, according to the TSA Web site, is the "definitive" word on what is now barred in carry-on bags: "beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, toothpaste, hair gel and other items of similar consistency." In other worlds anything liquid or gelatinous, regardless of container. The only exceptions: baby formula and prescription medicine, which must be presented for inspection. And don't expect to get the medicine through unless it is in the original bottle and labeled for your use. On the other hand, despite rumors to the contrary, electronics--music players, PDAs, mobile phones, laptops and the like--are permitted. At no time did the TSA bar those items. Sunday, August 13, update: Although Thursday's ban on liquids, lotions, aerosols and gels in carry-on bags remains in effect, some modifications have been made. Up to four ounces of liquid, non-prescription medicine is now ALLOWED. Also now permitted: low blood sugar treatments including glucose gel for diabetics. A third new permissible form of non-solid: baby food. And women travelers take note: SOLID lipstick is now also permitted in carry-on bags. (Lip gloss is still banned, as is lip balm such as ChapStick.)

There'll Always Be An England--and the Rules Are Different
Since today's terrorism plot was concocted in Britain and cracked by British law-enforcement agencies, you can understand why British aviation authorities imposed much more draconian carry-on rule changes. As of today, all carry-on bags are banned. Everything, including electronics gear and pocketbooks, must be checked. The only exceptions: personal items such as keys (but no electronic fobs); prescription medicine; eyeglasses and sunglasses (without cases); contact-lens cases (no solution); unboxed tissues; travel documents; and pocket-sized wallets and purses. All these items must be carried "in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag," according to the UK Department of Transport. And while it is not mentioned in the new guidelines, books (even paperbacks) are barred. These rules also apply to flights originating in the United Kingdom and heading to the United States and Canada.

The Return of Secondary, At-the-Gate Screening
One of the least-liked components of the airport security regimen in the days immediately following 9/11 was the secondary, at-the-gate screening. Well, effective today, it's back. Although it doesn't seem to be operating at every gate at every airport, secondary screening has reappeared throughout the nation. What are they looking for besides any liquids you may have purchased in the sterile area? Nothing in particular. It's just a back-up to the front-line security checkpoints and it's just as annoying as we remember.

The Best Site for Real-Time Flight Information
There are any number of places to check your flight's status in real time, including the airlines' own Web sites. But I think the Flight Status box on the home page of is currently the best of class. You can check out flights by route, which includes all scheduled flights by all airlines; by specific flights; or by three-hour blocks at a specific airport. I don't trust any site that claims to offer "real-time" security checkpoint waiting times. So since I don't trust any of them, I usually check the TSA's Security Checkpoint Wait Times page. It gives the historical average by hour of the day and day of the week.

Other Business-Travel News You Need to Know
As of 11 p.m. today, the bankruptcy judge in the Northwest Airlines case hadn't ruled on the airline's request to block its flight attendants from striking. The airline unilaterally imposed a contract on the flight attendants on August 1 and flight attendants responded by giving 15-day notice of a strike. The judge is likely to rule by the flight attendants' deadline of 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, August 15. Big Six carriers raised fares by as much as $20 roundtrip last weekend. Frontier Airlines now charges a $5 fee if you book a ticket by telephone and buy it at the airport. Effective September 2, Aer Lingus is slashing its free checked-bag allowance to a two-piece total of 80 pounds per passenger. That limit applies to travelers using transatlantic flights and onward connections in Dublin. Travelers whose itineraries originate in Dublin and are headed to Europe will pay for all checked bags.

Copyright 1993-2006 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.