Add one more item to your air travel checklist: a baggie.
And not just any baggie, but a reclosable, 1-quart plastic bag - smaller than a gallon, but bigger than a sandwich-size.
That's what airport security officials now require travelers use to pack liquids in their carry-on luggage, and the liquids must be in containers holding 3 ounces or less.
The Transportation Security Administration even has a mnemonic to help passengers remember: 3-1-1. Three ounces, a one-quart bag, and only one bag per person.
Officials launched a campaign Monday to educate passengers before the holiday rush, when they expect more of a backlog than usual at security checkpoints because of the new regulations.
"The easiest thing to do is just put everything that's liquids and gels in your checked-in baggage," said Art Meinke, federal security director at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Liquids, gels, aerosols or lotions of any size can be packed in checked luggage.
Removing liquid items from their carry-on for the security check has become routine for frequent travelers, who have known to pack the items in plastic since the rule went into effect in late September. But many of the travelers at Bush Intercontinental on Monday didn't know about the rules or how to pack properly. Security personnel expect to see more confusion among holiday passengers who haven't flown since the rules took effect.
"A lot of people don't realize what's liquid and what's not, funny as it sounds," said a security screener who would not give her name because she was not authorized to speak to reporters.
She stood near the entrance of the security line, showing travelers what's allowed in a carry-on - most travel-size toiletries, including toothpaste, shaving cream, lotion, hair gel and perfume. The 3-ounce stipulation refers to the size of the bottle, not the amount of liquid left inside.
Exceptions are made for most medications and baby formula. Passengers cannot bring drinks through security but can buy them in the airport for the flight.
The new rules were sparked in August by a foiled terrorist plot that involved liquid bombs.
Wait times increase
Since then, average wait times for security lines at Bush Intercontinental have increased at least five minutes, Meinke said. Confiscated items end up in the trash, he said.
While some passengers said the new regulations caused an unnecessary inconvenience, others found it easy to pack liquids separately.
"It helps us know that we're taking all the precautions," said Jessie Morris, who was seeing his wife and two young children off to Peru.
Trudi Allison, of Jersey Village, was more frustrated.
"I didn't even think about it. I just threw that good perfume in there," said Allison, who almost had to leave the expensive perfume behind. At the last moment, a security screener realized that despite its large bottle, the perfume was only 1.7 ounces. So she put it into a baggie and was on her way, parting only with two large bottles of hairspray.
CLEARED FOR DEPARTURE
Travelers hoping for a seamless trip through airport security this holiday season should follow these tips:
Pack away: If possible, put all liquids in your checked luggage.
3-1-1: Liquids in carry-on luggage must be 3 ounces or less, packed in a one-quart plastic bag, with only one bag allowed per person. Passengers must remove the bags from their carry-on at the security check.
What's liquid? Toothpaste, perfume, shaving cream, lotions, gels, aerosols.
Shoes off: Passengers are still required to remove shoes and jackets at security checkpoints.
Source: Transportation Security Administration
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