British authorities’ arrest Thursday of two dozen suspects in what they called a terrorist plot to destroy to 10 planes on their way to the United States created huge disruptions at airports as officials scrambled to implement new security measures.
In question-and-answer form, this is a brief look at the situation and its implications for air travel.
Q: What are the new rules?
A: All liquids and gels are now banned from carry-on luggage and purses, including bottles of water, cosmetics, shampoo, soaps and cans of shaving cream. Passengers can pack these items into their checked baggage. The exceptions: baby formula and prescription medicines in the name of ticketed passengers will be allowed after being inspected. Insulin and other essential nonprescription liquid medicines will also be permitted.
Q: Are there long lines at the airport?
A: Yes. Most airports are reporting lines lasting 1-2 hours. In Seattle, the lines were reportedly four hours long. Thousands of passengers spent time discarding lotions and beverages and re-packing their luggage before going through the security lines.
Q: How much more time should I allow in arriving the airport?
A: To be on the safe side, a lot. Federal officials advise checking with your airline and airport to determine how much time is needed for your flight. United Airlines said passengers should arrive at least three hours early for all flights. In Minneapolis, Northwest Airlines advised passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. And beginning Friday, passengers will go through double screening to make sure they’re not carrying liquids onto planes — with carry-on luggage getting checked not only at the main security checkpoint, but also a second time at the boarding gate.
Q: Can I park or be dropped off at airport?
A: Yes, although there may be traffic delays because of increased screening of cars coming into the airport at checkpoints.
Q: Do the changes affect all flights in the U.S.?
A: In addition to raising the threat level for flights from Britain to “red,” designating a severe risk of terrorist attacks, all domestic flights in the United States, were put under an “orange” alert — the second-highest level. However, the newly intensified screening procedures were in effect for all flights, foreign and domestic.
Q: How should I pack?
A: Consider taking no carry-on items, or as few as possible, and make sure they’re as trimmed down and clutter-free as possible. Do not overpack. You cannot bring liquids on board, except for infant formula or breast milk, or prescription medication. Infant formula must be submitted for inspection to a Transportation Security Administration security officer by passengers traveling with a baby. Make sure the prescription matches the passenger’s name. Should you bring the above items, they will be discarded an considered trash by the airports.
Q: Can I still bring laptops and cell phones?
A: The TSA says they are still allowed along with other electronic items. As a precaution, consider bringing an empty, checkable bag where you could put any items that security officials flag and then check it for your flight.
Q: Can I buy a drink and get food once I get past the security checkpoint?
A: Yes, but passengers will have to consume any liquids before boarding their flights. However, food is permitted.
Q: I have a ticket that involves travel to or through the United Kingdom, but I don't want to fly right now. What do I do?
A: Many big U.S. carriers such as Delta, Continental and United are allowing customers to make one change to their itinerary between today and Sept. 1 without penalty. Changes are subject to seat availability. American Airlines one one carrier offering refunds in the form of travel vouchers for customers ticketed for travel to the U.K. between now and Sept. 1.
Q: I don't want to fly anywhere? What can I do?
A: Right now no airlines are offering refunds or loosening restrictions on ticket changes for travel to destinations other than the United Kingdom.