Thursday, August 24, 2006

Corkscrews yes, whipped cream no: making sense of air travel's new carry-on luggage restrictions

Flying with the new TSA regulationsTravel advisory: this post has nothing to do with mediation, negotiation, or the practice of law. It concerns itself solely with the peculiarities of the latest U.S. Transportation Security Administration regulations regarding carry-on items--which I got to see first hand during business travel earlier this week.

Mediators are keen observers of human behavior. We know from our observations that humans are rarely consistent. In fact, paradoxically, if there’s one factor that remains consistent from one conflict to the next, it’s that you can generally count on people to consistently behave in inconsistent ways.

Which may explain the current TSA regulations.

Now that Britain has foiled the latest terrorist plot, U.S. air travelers are adapting once again to brand-new security protocols, courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration.

Frequent fliers will be heartened to learn that at least as of today, August 24, 2006, meat cleavers, sabers, and ice picks continue to be prohibited items in carry-on luggage, even for travelers wishing to wield them in self-defense against freedom-hating terrorists. The same is true for firearms, cattle prods, brass knuckles, and dynamite. No surprises there.

There are, however, some anomalies. Corkscrews and knitting needles, which could certainly put someone's eye out, remain permitted. Permitted also are pointed metal scissors with blades shorter than 4 inches in length--still long enough, if you ask me, to do some damage in the hands of any determined psychopath--along with screwdrivers that are seven inches or shorter.

Meanwhile, even though smoking has been banned on domestic flights for many years now, cigar cutters are permitted (although matches and lighters are not).

In addition, all liquids, gels, pastes, and lotions are now prohibited items in carry-on luggage here in the U.S. That means no beverages, Jello, or yogurt. And no shampoo, toothpaste, or perfume. (Which makes it all the more peculiar that corkscrews remain a permitted item. If you can't bring on board that cheeky Merlot, what on earth do you need that corkscrew for?)

Personal lubricants (up to 4 ounces), however, are permitted (perhaps as a courtesy to members of the Mile High Club?).

So, feeling safer yet?

(A P.S. to the security screeners at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport--while I am grateful for your care in screening my shoes for chemical explosive residue, we both missed the tube of toothpaste that I'd forgotten to take out of my briefcase. I discovered it at 30,000 feet on the plane back to Boston. Oops.)