Image: Last-minute gulp
Ric Feld  /  AP
Jessica Pardi quickly downs a liquid beverage before entering the security check area at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta on Thursday.
updated 11/3/2006 7:32:54 PM ET 2006-11-04T00:32:54

Vince Marzula started his trip to Las Vegas by losing money at the security checkpoint at the Atlanta airport.

“I threw about $100 of stuff in the garbage — hair care products of my wife,” the 35-year-old from suburban Atlanta said Thursday.

A month after the federal Transportation Security Administration announced rules permitting only limited amounts of liquids on board airplanes, confusion over the regulations has led to longer waits at security checkpoints around the country.

TSA officials are concerned those delays will significantly increase during the holiday season.

“We’re very worried about Thanksgiving. We know it’s the busiest time of the year,” TSA spokesman Christopher White said. “We know there will be a lot of infrequent travelers, so we’re doing everything we can to get the word out.”

At the Atlanta airport — the world’s busiest in terms of passengers — average wait times at checkpoints have increased from 18½ minutes in September to 23½ minutes in October, while delays have jumped from 14 to more than 21 minutes at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, according to the TSA.

The TSA is trying to educate travelers before the Thanksgiving weekend with a campaign called “3-1-1 on Air Travel.” It includes posters about the new rules at airline ticket counters and security checkpoints at more than 425 U.S. airports, and extra TSA staffers to tell passengers what is allowed.

Under the 3-1-1 rule, any liquids carried aboard a plane must be in 3-ounce containers or smaller, and all of the containers must be in a one-quart see-through plastic bag, with one bag per passenger.

The rules eased the total ban on liquids that was imposed in August after British police broke up a terrorist plot to assemble and detonate bombs aboard as many as 10 flights from Britain to the United States.

Ruth Kitchen of Denver brought a plastic bag to the Atlanta airport, but it was too large. She also had to buy a zip-top bag for 50 cents from a store nearest to the checkpoint.

“I thought I was prepared,” the 48-year-old homemaker said. “My gel had to go into the trash. I may have to check some things.”

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