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Friday, August 11, 2006 - Page updated at 02:38 PM

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How to pack — and cope — with new airport security

Seattle Times travel staff

Taking a flight soon? Here are some tips on coping with the new security rules, at Sea-Tac Airport and beyond.

Security lines

Lines for security checkpoints are moving much faster today at Sea-Tac than Thursday. There was a rush early this morning and one line stretched across the Skybridge to the parking lot, but by midmorning one checkpoint had only a seven-minute wait, said airport spokesman Bob Parker.

"It's a world of difference today from yesterday," said Parker. Lines varied at other U.S. airports today, with reports of delays at Los Angeles but almost normal operations early this morning at Chicago's O'Hare where extra staff was deployed.

At Sea-Tac, security lines may swell and shrink throughout today and this weekend, especially as cruise ship passengers arrive and depart en masse for their cruises between Seattle and Alaska.

If you have the time, before you line up for a security checkpoint take a quick walk through the terminal to find the checkpoint with the smallest number of people — either at the south, central or north checkpoints. Don't automatically go to the one nearest your airline check-in counter. You can use any of those checkpoints and then walk to your gate once in the departure area. Airport staff also try to steer travelers to checkpoints with shorter lines.

Fast lane for checkpoints

The express security checkpoint lines for elite-level frequent flier and first class/business passengers are operating again today at Sea-Tac. In the Thursday chaos at the airport, there was nothing quick about them. The fast lanes are operated by various airlines, including Alaska Airlines, at each checkpoint to speed their favored passengers to the security staff.

Sea-Tac parking changes

To ease potential crowding in the main terminal, both the third floor (for monthly-fee parking) and fourth floors (hourly parking) of the Sea-Tac airport garage are temporarily closed today . On Thursday, lines of people snaked out into the traffic so those parking areas were closed for safety. It's not clear how long those garage floors will be closed, but it's possible they could reopen today, said airport spokeswoman Rachel Garson. Parking is available on the upper floors, and those parking short-term can go anywhere in the garage and still pay the hourly rate. Get updates at www.portseattle.org/seatac or phone 206-433-5388.

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Defensive packing

To speed your way through security lines at Sea-Tac or any airport — and to help your fellow travelers — here are some packing do's and don'ts

• All gels, liquids and lotions are banned from carry-on luggage under new U.S. government rules. That means no water bottles, cosmetics, shampoo, contact lens solution, toothpaste, perfume, etc. Pack such items in checked bags or you'll have to throw them out at security checkpoints. To guard against liquids spilling in checked luggage, avoid breakable bottles and pack anything liquid in a sealed plastic bag .

• Anything you buy to drink in the terminal can't be taken on the plane. Airlines are stocking up with extra drinks.

• Take as small a carry-on bag as possible; the less clutter, the easier it is for security personnel to screen bags. If in doubt about an item, put it in your checked luggage.

• For a list of what you can and can't pack, go the Transportation Security Administration Web site, www.tsa.gov

Packing for flights to or from Britain

British government rules on carry-on luggage are much stricter than U.S. rules. Travelers between Britain and the U.S. and those with connecting flights in Britain cannot have any carry-on luggage. Travelers are allowed to take only a small plastic bag with essentials such as passport, cash, credit cards and essential medications. Laptop computers, cell phones and personal music players must go in checked luggage. Get more information on luggage/security rules at the British Airways Web site, www.ba.com (click on "Latest disruption update"). There's also information at the British government Web site, www.fco.gov.uk/

Cruise passengers

Sea-Tac airport gets busy Friday through Sunday when passengers come and go for Alaska cruises that turn around in Seattle on those days.

The cruise passengers arrive and depart en masse at Sea-Tac since they're bussed to and from the airport. Today, about 1,500 cruise passengers will be at Sea-Tac after their ship docks in Seattle; about 1,600 passengers will arrive at Sea Tac, said airport spokesman Bob Parker, and be bussed to a ship in downtown Seattle. That can make the airport congested for a short time.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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