Will Long Lines Be in the Bag This Thanksgiving?

It could be a tough season when the volume of travelers soars later this month for Thanksgiving.

TSA officials say tests by the FBI found it's highly unlikely that terrorists could destroy a jet with a bomb made from such small amounts of fluids.

Passengers are also allowed to carry on water and toiletries in any quantity bought at airport shops beyond security checkpoints, including liquor and perfume bought at duty-free shops. Liquids are screened before being sold in secure airport areas.

Inexperienced screeners

Although the Atlanta airport is fully staffed, security lines have grown just as TSA at many airports is battling chronically high turnover rates among screeners. Despite a retention bonus program offered by the TSA, one in five security screeners left his or her job during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That has caused staffing problems at some airports, and some screeners are new and inexperienced.

Business traveler Everett says a screener at Hartsfield recently forced him to give up an unmarked, 3-ounce plastic bottle containing his favorite aftershave, Old Spice. She told him the bottle had to have a manufacturer's label. Although that's not correct, Everett had to throw it out.

After that, Everett bought a travel-size container of mouthwash, poured out the mouthwash, and -- at the risk of smelling minty -- poured in Old Spice. "It sails through the checkpoint," he says.

TSA is pulling out all the stops to keep lines moving over the holidays. Williams says the Atlanta airport is fully staffed with screeners and will have all 22 checkpoint lanes open Thanksgiving week.

Twenty-two uniformed airport employees trained by TSA will be telling passengers what they can and cannot bring aboard before they get to the checkpoint. Sixteen-foot-long signs bearing the TSA's 3-1-1 rule are hanging in the terminal. Brochures are at curbside.

"I think that, over time, people will get it," says Williams, who has been Hartsfield's security director for five years.

Travelers really have no choice. "These regulations are not going away anytime soon," he says.


Contributing: Roger Yu from Atlanta; Chris Woodyard from Las Vegas.

What you can carry on a plane

The TSA's 3-1-1 rule:

3-ounce or smaller containers of items such as shampoo, toothpaste and makeup

1-quart clear plastic zip-top bag Waiting longer

Average top wait times for security checkpoints have increased at many airports since the liquids ban in August. Some of the longest peak wait times (in minutes):

Airport July October

Nashville 11 32

John Wayne, Orange County18 26

Washington Dulles 12 25

Las Vegas 15 24

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta 18 23

Chicago O'Hare 11 21

Philadelphia 13 20

Source: Transportation Security Administration

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