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Small Bottles and Soda Permitted On-board US Commercial Planes

By Eric Lipton


Aviation security officials eased the ban on carry-on liquids for airline passengers on Monday, after weeks of testing to determine how much of a liquid explosive would cause catastrophic damage to an airplane.

Beginning Tuesday morning, passengers can carry three-ounce bottles of liquids and gels onto planes, as long as all items fit into a single quart-size zip-top plastic bag. Passengers will present the bags for inspection at checkpoints.

Testing by the FBI and others showed that a quart-size bag filled with three-ounce containers would not hold enough explosives to destroy a plane, officials said.

“While this novel type of liquid explosives is now an ongoing part of the terrorists’ playbook and must be dealt with, we now know enough to say that a total ban is no longer needed from a security point of view,” Kip Hawley, the assistant secretary for the Transportation Security Administration, said at a news conference at Reagan National Airport.

Passengers will also be allowed to board with sodas, water bottles or other liquids that they buy after passing the security checkpoints, in the secure area of terminals. Hawley made clear that the revised rules, and the elevated threat level put into effect last month after the disruption of a plot to bomb planes flying to the United States from London, would most likely continue for many months, if not indefinitely.

That is because the government does not have automated equipment that can check passengers and their carry-on bags for liquid explosives. Developing and deploying this equipment at the 753 airport checkpoints will take months, if not years.

“This is not going to go away,” Hawley said. “Let’s build ourselves a sustainable level of security.”

The revisions, which are also going into effect for domestic and international flights in Canada and may be adopted in Europe, address many criticisms of the ban on liquids. Because small bottles of perfume or makeup, as well as containers of shaving cream, deodorant and toothpaste, are being allowed in carry-on baggage, passengers can again carry on small bags for short trips. Since the ban started, airlines have dealt with 25 percent more checked bags than usual.

Passengers traveling Monday through Reagan National across the Potomac River from Washington said they welcomed the change. “It seems prudent,” said John Glaser of Boston, who had left behind his toiletries for a trip to Washington.