Keeping up with the TSA

This item appears on page 13 of the May 2008 issue.

Many travelers are caught by surprise when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) changes the rules about what can be carried aboard aircraft and what constitutes a “prohibited item.” I suggest that before you finish your packing for each trip, you consult the TSA webpage You are able to sign up for e-mail notification for changes in several categories of interest, including the list of prohibited items.

Just because an item is permitted by the TSA does not mean you may not encounter problems when traveling through foreign airports. For example, the U.S. now permits metal scissors with pointed tips and blades less than four inches in length and many tools (including screwdrivers) less than seven inches in length, but these are sometimes challenged elsewhere.

The reverse also holds true. While the European Union permits gel and liquid containers up to 100 milli­liters (approximately 3.4 ounces), this exceeds the U.S. limit of three ounces for carry-on luggage.

One step to simplify international travel occurred with the signing of the International Harmonization of Security Measures‚ which stated, in part, that, effective Nov. 6, 2006, travelers going to and from the U.S., Canada, the 25 member countries of the European Union as well as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland can use the same one-quart, clear plastic zip-top bag to transport their travel-sized liquid, gel and aerosol items in carry-on bags through various security checkpoints here and abroad. To put this in perspective, approximately half of the world’s travelers are governed by similar security measures.

Unfortunately, I know of no comprehensive website that synthesizes all the rules (and differences) worldwide. The following sites (I’m relisting the TSA site listed above) may be of help:

BOB PARDA, Advantage Travel & Tours, Poway, CA