TSA's Liquid Rules: So Long, 3-1-1?
Passengers say the TSA has all but stopped screening their baggage for liquids. They say transportation security officers no longer ask them to remove lotions, shampoos and even water bottles from their luggage, and overlook all manner of liquids packed in their carry-ons during screening.
"I was never asked about the liquids in my bag or asked to remove them," says
The TSA initially banned liquids and gels from carry-on bags in 2006 when British authorities reportedly thwarted a plot to blow up planes bound for
The agency in 2008 promised it would ease its restrictions within a year by removing size limits on liquids carried onboard. But liquids still would have to be placed in a separate bin, according to the agency. The 3-1-1 rule isn't scheduled to be lifted until the end of this year, when X-ray machines at security checkpoints will have upgraded software proven to detect threat liquids in any configuration.
But a TSA spokeswoman insisted the 3-1-1 rule is still in effect. "The policy continues to be enforced," says the TSA's
However, extensive interviews with air travelers suggest that the policy is largely unenforced.
Among their observations:
The policy was apparently loosened in 2009. Numerous travelers say the TSA started looking the other way last year. "I leave my liquids in my bag about one-third of the time, mostly because I'm brain dead after teaching two or three full days, and forget," says
It's happening across the board. With only one or two exceptions, travelers report the lack of a liquid rule at airports across the country. "Twice lately I have gone through security and in a rush forgot to take out my little baggie of liquids," says
No liquids are suspect. Incredibly, no liquids of any kind are apparently scrutinized by the TSA, according to air travelers. "I have small bottle of hand sanitizer and contact solution in my soft-sided briefcase," says
If the 3-1-1 rule has indeed been scrapped, it would mean the TSA has taken a lead in removing the liquid-and-gel restrictions.
Of course, the Mexicans are a step ahead of all of us when it comes to liberating carry-on liquids. Consider this sign spotted a few days ago at the
I hear that. I've never understood why the TSA had a liquid-and-gel rule, which I've openly questioned in previous columns. In response to my claim that liquids were harmless, my friends at the TSA posted a "mythbusting" rebuttal that required its own mythbusting.
Isn't it time for the TSA come clean about liquids? If there's any evidence that my tube of Crest is dangerous, or even just a single documented case in which liquids could have brought down a plane in America, then I think we'll all quietly empty our toothpaste, hair gel and contact lens solution into one quart-sized, clear plastic, zip-top bag.
Otherwise, the TSA should make it official and let our liquids fly.
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