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With the Labor Day holiday weekend fast approaching, many are wondering how the recently enhanced airport security procedures are impacting air travel. I am pleased to report that the process is not as bad as you might expect.
Just a few days ago, I caught a flight out of Newark, New Jersey, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Although there were certainly delays getting past the security checkpoints--since screeners are vigilantly inspecting all carry-ons and confiscating all types of liquids, gels, lotions and other comparable items--all in all, the process went quite smoothly.
Things are certain to go a lot quicker as travelers get acclimated to the new restrictions. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA), here are the only liquid- or gel-based substances currently permitted aboard aircraft:

small amounts of baby formula and breast milk if a baby or small child is traveling;
liquid prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger's ticket;
up to 5 oz. (148ml) of liquid or gel low blood sugar treatment;
up to 4 oz. of essential nonprescription liquid medications including saline solution, eye care products and KY jelly;
gel-filled bras and similar prostethics;
gel-filled wheelchair cushions; and
life support and life sustaining liquids such as bone marrow, blood products, and transplant organs carried for medical reasons.
All other liquid- or gel-based items will not be allowed past the security checkpoints, so don't bother taking take them with you. (You'll avoid needless delay, a humiliating bag search, and disparaging looks from TSA personnel and fellow travelers.)
If you just can't leave home without your billy clubs, black jacks, brass knuckles, jubatons, mace/pepper spray, martial arts weapons, night sticks, nunchakus, stun guns/shocking devices, and throwing stars, you may want to store those items in your checked baggage. (They will not be permitted in carry-ons nor otherwise allowed in the cabin.)
In addition to your self defense weaponry, you may also want to check your "'tude" when interacting with the cabin crew. As a result of legislation signed by President George W. Bush, back in December of 2003, certain flight crew members are now permitted to carry firearms to defend against "criminal violence or air piracy." (Currently, only a pilot, flight engineer or navigator are permitted to pack a pistol.) While your friendly flight attendant, on the other hand, is likely to have been schooled in an array self defense techniques that can do some real damage to your person. (Interestingly, since the government views the details regarding the self defense program as "protected critical infrastructure information," and as "sensitive security information," training specifics are not publicly available. Additionally, all training participants are required to sign a three page "non-disclosure agreement," that would make any lawyer proud. As you might expect, a violation of the agreement subjects the discloser to, among other things, "administrative, disciplinary, civil or criminal action, as appropriate.")
So, the next time you're imperiously instructed to "return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt," it may be best to do so quickly and obediently...if you know what's good for you.
Happy trails!
For a complete list of "Permitted and Prohibited Items," promulgated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), please click on the following link:
For information regarding the TSA's "Federal Flight Deck Officers' Program," please click on the following link:
For information regarding the TSA's "Crew Member Self Defense Training Program," please click on the following link:
For a copy of the TSA's "Non-Disclosure Agreement," please click on the following link:
NOTE: On September 26, 2006, after this piece was originally posted, TSA eased its prohibitions and now permits certain liquids, gels and lotions aboard aircraft, subject to certain size and packaging requirements. To view this updated information, please visit TSA's website using the first link provided above.