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Monday, November 6, 2006 - Page updated at 04:21 PM

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Shampoo, toothpaste and other liquids allowed again on airplanes

Seattle Times travel writer

Travelers will again be able to put shampoo, toothpaste and other liquids and gels in their carry-ons and take them through airport security checkpoints starting Tuesday.

Bottled water and other beverages purchased within the secure areas will also be allowed.

Can I take it?

• Passengers will be allowed to bring travel-sized toiletries — three ounces or less — in a quart-sized zip-top bag through security checkpoints. These include aerosol spray bottles and cans, bug repellents, shampoos, make-up, toothpaste, creams, nail polish, mouth wash, etc.

• Allowed in larger quantities and not required to be in plastic bags are prescription medications, cough syrup, personal lubricants, baby formula, eye drops etc. These items must be declared at security for separate screening.

• Once inside security, travelers can buy any size liquid (perfumes, body care products, duty-free items) or beverage and bring it onto the plane.

• The new rules apply to carry-ons. Anything that's not on the Transportation Security Administrations' list of banned items (knives, box cutters etc.) can be taken in checked luggage.

• For a complete list of what allowed and prohibited, see www.tsa.gov.

In what the government is calling a new "bag and zip" policy, the new rules, announced Monday by the Transportation Security Administration, will allow travel-sized toiletries of three ounces or less (typical drug-store sample sizes) through security and aboard airplanes.

Travelers will be required to put the toiletries in one quart-sized zip-top plastic bag and place the bag in a bin on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed separately, as is required for laptops.

Larger amounts of prescription liquid medications, such as diabetic glucose treatments, and non-prescription meds such as cough medicine and contact solution, will also be allowed in carry-ons. They won't have to be put into plastic bags, but they must be declared at the checkpoints for additional screening.

Wait times at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport checkpoints could get longer until passengers and screeners get used to the changes, said spokesman Bob Parker.

"We think it's a real positive, but it still represents a change and any change in the screening process can case problems for a few days."

Sea-Tac advises passengers to arrive at the airport two hours before their flights.

After clearing security, travelers will once again be allowed to go to airport shops in the boarding areas, and purchase water, coffee and other beverages and liquids (perfume, shampoo, etc.) of any size, and bring them aboard aircraft.

The changes follow an Aug. 10 ban on taking most liquids aboard planes in carry-on luggage, imposed after British authorities announced what they said was a terrorist threat to bomb U.S.-bound airplanes using liquid explosives.

"Since then, experts from around the government, including the FBI and our national labs have analyzed the information we now have and have conducted extensive explosives testing to get a better understanding of this specific threat," the TSA said in a statement Monday.

"These changes are intended to enhance security and balance human needs because we have a better understanding of the threat and security risks associated with liquids, aerosols and gels."

Drug stores sell three-ounce sample sizes of many travel toiletries, but travelers can put their liquids in any type of container as long as it's not bigger than three ounces, said Jennifer Peppin, a TSA spokeswoman in Seattle.

"You can't take three ounces of liquid and put it in a four-ounce bottle. That won't fly," she said.

Passengers can bring liquids or gels of any size in checked baggage, and Peppin said that checking items is still the easiest way for most people to go.

"When in doubt, put it in your checked bag."

Peppin said security officers have been trained for the changes and wait times at checkpoints should not be longer than usual.

But others predicted at least some initial confusion.

"All this raises the outlandish scenario of TSA screeners playing Solomon and deciding what is or isn't a three-ounce 'portion' and whether a particular plastic bag is too large to be allowed," Joe Brancatelli said in an e-mail to subscribers of his business travel newsletter, JoeSentMe.com.

The number of checked bags at U.S. airports has increased 20 percent since the Aug. 10 rules went into effect. Travelers have complained of having to wait longer to get their bags and of increases in lost or damaged bags.

The latest changes should reduce those problems and help business travelers and others who travel with only carry-on luggage.

TSA said it will be stepping up other security measures throughout U.S. airports including more random screening of employees, additional canine patrols, stronger air cargo security measures and more rigorous identity verification.

Carol Pucci: 206-464-3701 or cpucci@seattletimes.com .

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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