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.
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
The TSA allows small bottles and tubes of liquids to be carried aboard airplanes only if they are enclosed in a quart-size, zip-top plastic bag.
'Kip Hawley is an Idiot'said the Baggie carried by Ryan Bird.
The rules replace an outright ban on liquids, lotions and gels ordered Aug. 10 after an alleged plot to bomb U.S.-bound jetliners was foiled.