New X-ray technology that can differentiate between "threat" liquids used in bombs and harmless liquids is on track to be deployed within a year, according to the TSA. These new X-Ray machines would allow the TSA to phase out its restrictions on carry-on liquids, first by increasing the quantity permitted and later by eliminating the need for passengers to remove their liquids to be X-rayed.
The TSA plans to have 600 of these machines in place by the end of the year, and 900 in place a year from now. Major airports will receive the majority of these, with less-trafficked airports getting handheld versions that are already in use. The TSA still needs to determine whether or not the machines can accurately detect threat liquids inside luggage. If not, passengers may still be required to remove their liquids to be scanned.
I think it's safe to say that reducing or eliminating the TSA's liquid restrictions is the best thing that could happen to air travel short of plummeting fuel prices. Since the infamous 3-1-1 rule was put in place, travelers have endured long, frustrating security lines as passenger after passenger has his or her liquids scrutinized by TSA officials. The rules also meant more passengers had to consider casting their luggage into the checked-bag abyss, perhaps never to return, but more than half the airline industry took the shine off that option by implementing checked-bag fees. That, in turn, led to more people using carry-ons, which exacerbated the problem at security lines (and in overhead bins, I might add).
So: fingers crossed! Air travel may never again be as cheap as it was a few years ago, but lifting the restrictions on carry-on liquids would, at least, bring the boiling chaos at our airports' security lines down to a simmer. After all, if expensive airfares really mean flying is becoming something of a luxury in this country, why should the flying experience be an awful one?