Michael Jackson, Kip Hawley
Caleb Jones  /  AP file
A T.S.A. official holds a bag of liquids and gels as Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Michael Jackson and Assistant Secretary for the TSA Kip Hawley, (not shown), talk about the refinements to aviation security measures during a news conference at Washington's Reagan National Airport, Sept. 25.
updated 9/27/2006 1:26:50 PM ET 2006-09-27T17:26:50

Flying commercially just got a little safer: passengers are no longer at risk of suffering from dehydration at 38,000 feet.

Nor are they susceptible to the chapped lips, five o'clock shadow and dry contact lenses wrought by the Transportation Security Administration's ban of carry-on toiletries, make-up or liquids late this summer, after an alleged terrorist plan to blow up planes with flammable fluids was discovered.

In an unexpected and passenger-pleasing announcement made Sept. 25, the TSA said that it would implement a series of "refined" security measures starting the next day. Kip Hawley, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for the TSA, said the new measures were designed to "recognize some common-sense security points."

While the liquid ban will remain generally in place, there are two major changes to TSA policy. First, passengers may bring travel-sized containers (three ounces or fewer) of toiletries and medicines on board with them--with a catch. They must be carried to the security line sealed inside a one-quart, clear, zip-top plastic bag (the size of a sandwich bag). And, beverages such as water and coffee will now be allowed onto flights, provided they were purchased in the secure boarding area of the airport--i.e., after passengers clear security.

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"Since the initial total ban [on liquids] experts from around the government and our national labs have … conducted extensive explosives testing to get a better understanding of this specific threat," said Hawley, speaking yesterday at the Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. "While this novel type of liquid explosive is now an ongoing part of the terrorist 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."

So what's now off the no-fly list? Vindicated toiletries include lip gloss, saline solution, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream, gel deodorant and liquid antibacterial soap--all of which were banned last week but are now allowed in 3-ounce packages. Lipstick and solid deodorant were never subject to the ban and are therefore still allowed on commercial flights. And, there are some oddities in what's permitted and not in the cabin--yes on knitting needles, no on pool cues, for example.

Of course, the security changes come too late to help passengers who spent the late-summer months--traditionally one of the busiest times of year for leisure travel--shuffling through winding security lines, chugging bottled water at security checkpoints, tossing barely-used toiletries and submitting to increasingly intimate friskings. And the tight regulations aren't totally behind us, either. Your zip-top baggies of deodorant and toothpaste will have to go through the x-ray separately, and any prescription liquid medication, baby formula or breast milk totaling more than three ounces will require additional screening.

But, TSA representatives are enthusiastic--perhaps because there's finally good news.

"The changes allow us to focus on the things that pose a great threat to aviation, rather than fishing a lipstick out of a purse," says Christopher White, a TSA spokesman. "It also allows us to implement other programs, like random security checks all over the airport, on both the public and the private side--especially among airport workers that have access to secure areas. We want to make the security system unpredictable for terrorists and people who want to do us harm."

Now that sounds like common sense. Pass the bottled water.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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