Federal Officials Amend Ban on Liquids

Sales of liquor and perfumes at duty-free airport stores resumed Tuesday after federal officials amended a ban on liquids allowed aboard aircraft.

Under new rules, the Transportation Security Administration said passengers will be allowed to take duty-free items on board if they are delivered directly onto the aircraft by store workers.

That's a change from last week when all liquids and gels--including liquor and perfumes sold by the duty-free operations at Chicago's two international airports--were barred after British authorities arrested two dozen people believed to be intent on using a liquid-based explosive to blow up passenger jets bound for the United States.

Michael Pane, executive director of the International Association of Airport Duty Free Stores, said the change recognizes that duty-free sales operate differently than sales at other airport retailers.

"A duty-free store's products never get into the general population," he said, noting that they are kept in bonded warehouses before moving to the secured area of airports. Most duty-free stores already handle sales in the manner required by the TSA, he said.

Pane said it is unlikely that duty-free stores will change their product mix so they can sell other products, such as water, now banned by the federal regulations.

"I have gotten no sense that they are shifting their commodities," he said. "They are much more into luxury-good items."

The precautionary ban instantly eliminated the market for duty-free staples like wine, liquor and perfumes, which represent more than 50 percent of sales in the $27 billion global duty-free business. Unlike in the U.S., the ban remains in place at most airports throughout the United Kingdom.

While the TSA said it would allow liquor and perfume sold from duty-free stores on board, it was not changing its rules to allow passengers to carry the products onto a connecting flight. "Passengers making connections from international to domestic flights must transfer the items to their checked baggage before boarding their [domestic] flight," the TSA said.

However, passengers who clear customs before departure from some international locations, such as from many Canadian cities, the Bahamas, Bermuda and Aruba, will not be permitted to carry liquor and perfumes onto their flights, the federal agency said.

Copyright: The Chicago Tribune -- 8/17/06


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