Travel Rules Change Again

By Donna West

Now that all bags have to be screened, not just carry ons, the rules are again changing regarding how to pack and what to expect from baggage screeners. Here are some simple hints to help you get through the process with as little handling of your possessions as possible.

Books and papers – These cause a dense area that will look suspicious to a screener; spread these items out across the suitcase when you pack, or place them in a separate compartment of your bag, but again spread out if possible.

Food – That jar of peanut butter or bag of Snickers Bars will cause a search of your luggage. Again, the density of the product makes it impossible to determine what it is, so screeners have to check.

Aerosol Cans, lighters, and other flammable products – These have always been discouraged by the airlines, now if they are found they may be confiscated.

Sharp Objects – The clippers, scissors, and even knives, which are banned from carry-on luggage, are permissible in checked baggage. Having these items in clear plastic bags will make screening go faster.

Locks – Do not lock your luggage, if the screeners need to look into your suitcase to determine what an object is, they will cut off the lock. They suggest the use of plastic tie wraps to hold the zippers together. If they must open your luggage they are supposed to leave a note inside making you aware that they have done so.

Packing tips – One of the best ways to guarantee that your clothing will arrive in much the same condition in which you packed it is to make liberal use of Zip Lock Freezer Bags. For example, put undies in one and toiletries in another; these clear bags make the contents visible to sight searches and can be easily palpated to be sure there is nothing concealed within layers of clothing.

Finally – Because the Transportation Security Administration, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for the screening and subsequent searching of luggage, there is sure to be some conflict between the agency and the Airlines themselves if something is missing from a passenger’s suitcase. It is suggested that every traveler keep a list of the contents of their luggage so they can determine easily if anything is missing.

Reprinted with permission from the Galaxy, the newsletter of the Startel National User Group.

[From Connection MagazineApril 2003]

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