Reports from the U.S. suggest strict rules on liquids in air travellers’ baggage are no longer being enforced, despite no official change in policy. But an informal TakeOffeh.com survey of frequent Canadian travellers found that security officials here are still busy confiscating liquid items that don’t meet the rules.
“The Transportation Security Administration’s unpopular restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on luggage — better known as the 3-1-1 rule — are history,” wrote MSNBC columnist and travel ombudsman Christopher Elliott recently.
There have been no official pronouncements, but Elliott says extensive feedback from readers indicates the TSA has all but stopped screening carry-on bags for liquids. “(Readers) 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,” Elliott writes.
The TSA initially banned liquids and gels from carry-on bags back in 2006 when British authorities intercepted a plot to blow up planes with liquid explosives. Other jurisdictions, including Canada, quickly followed the U.S. lead. The rules were later revised to allow small quantities of liquids in carry-ons.
Elliott has been a vocal critic of the policy since it was put in place and many air travellers agree that the easily-forgotten restriction is one of the most annoying elements of airport security.
U.S. officials have said that liquid rules will be lifted at the end of this year, when screening machines at security checkpoints will be upgraded with technology designed to detect threatening liquids. European officials say new technology will allow prohibitions on liquids in carry-on bags to be lifted by 2013.
Meanwhile, despite Elliott’s reporting on the experiences of his readers, the TSA says nothing has changed: “The policy continues to be enforced,” a spokesperson told Elliott. “Although it is important to note that we empower our workforce with discretion.”
Several frequent travellers canvassed by TakeOffeh report they have seen little change in the way rules are being enforced here in Canada, although some have also seen incidents when officials displayed ‘discretion.’ “I still abide by packing most of my liquids and just taking small items in a see-through Ziploc with me on the plane,” says Vanessa Lee, publisher of Cruise and Travel Lifestyles magazine. “However, I did notice a woman going through security ahead of me who had a decent size bottle of sunscreen in her carry on and they looked at, let her keep it and told her next time to pack it.”
Photo Credit: Devonyu