Last week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quietly relaxed some of the onerous carry-on restrictions imposed after the alleged terrorist threat in Britain was reported last month.
Among the previously banned items that are now permitted: small amounts of baby formula for those traveling with infants, liquid prescription medications with a name that matches the passenger's ticket, up to four ounces of non-prescription liquid medications (including saline solution), gel-filled bras (which should make at least one of my readers happy), and solid cosmetics such as lipstick.
There are still numerous items that aren't allowed, however. Your best bet is to check the TSA's website for the latest updates before you fly—and don't be surprised if not all of the screeners are on the same page. When in doubt, bring a printout of the TSA's list of banned and accepted items with you to the airport.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the editorial board at the New York Times (free registration required) is calling for "a ban on virtually all carry-on" items. The paper writes, "Passenger security lines would move faster if there were little or nothing for the screeners to screen. Passengers could be boarded faster and more comfortably if they weren't clogging the aisles while stuffing bags in the overhead bins. Most important, security would probably be enhanced."
I see two problems with this, one practical and the other philosophical.
First, the practical: We know from newspaper reports that the recent increase in checked baggage is putting a greater strain on the already fraying baggage-screening process at airports. This would surely get worse and simply move the security risks to another part of the system if a complete ban on carry-on items were enacted.
Philosophically, it seems highly hypocritical to me that the Times, one of the most vocal critics of the government's heavy-handed policies in the "War on Terror," would suggest a complete ban that even further reduces our freedoms in the name of "security." A ban on all carry-on items would not make us significantly safer, but it would certainly make many people less likely to travel. That's not freedom, no matter how you define it.
Surely there's a middle ground. I'd like to see the Times try to find it.