Friday, May 2, 2008

Duty Free Debunked

Although more than 70 percent of air traffic routes are covered by the 3-1-1 liquids rule, differences in airport layouts and customs procedures have left some travelers with duty-free purchases like liquor and perfume they can’t take through an international checkpoint.

Here’s the scoop: When you fly to the U.S. from an international destination and have to change planes in the U.S., you get your checked bags back right before you go through customs. So if you have any item that you can’t take through the checkpoint, you can put it in your checked bag.

That’s not the case when you fly to Europe, Asia and other international destinations. You go through customs without them. So if you have a bottle of liquor, perfume or other liquid item, you have no chance to put it in your checked bag, and you risk having to toss them at the checkpoint.

Another glitch is that countries in Europe, Asia and elsewhere require that liquid duty-free items in excess of 3.4 ounces/100ml be sealed in an approved International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) tamper-evident bag in order to go through checkpoints. As a result, many passengers who buy liquid duty-free items in U.S. airports and have a connecting flight in Asia or Europe end up having to throw their liquor or perfume out because they can’t take it through the security checkpoint. Some people buy a suitcase in the airport and check the items. Some decide to drink the liquor instead of tossing it, which can lead to some other problems at checkpoints or on flights, but that’s for another post…

To sync up with our international partners, TSA is allowing U.S. duty-free stores to place liquid, aerosol and gel items in the tamper-evident bag for travelers headed overseas. As long as the liquid duty-free items are sealed in the bag when purchased, they can be taken through checkpoints in Europe, Asia and other international destinations.

Carrying the bags isn’t mandatory for duty-free stores here in the U.S., but we hope they’ll start carrying them soon. If you’re taking an international flight and want to pick up a bottle of cognac or a special perfume, be sure to ask for the tamper-evident bag. If the store doesn’t have them, you might want to wait until you get to the airport where you change planes or at your final destination to make a purchase.

One thing to note - because travelers coming into the U.S. do have the opportunity to place any liquid items that exceed 3-1-1 rules in their checked bag before going through customs, the international duty-free bag will not be allowed through U.S. checkpoints.

For more information, check out our web content on duty-free items.


TSA EoS Blog Team

TSO Gun Incident

Several bloggers have commented on our blog over the past few days on an incident that involved an officer showing up for work with an unloaded gun. We’ve read these comments and worked hard to get as much information as possible. After turning every stone and working with privacy experts and anyone else that would listen about our need to tell the whole story, the bottom line is that we simply cannot.

The federal Privacy Act prohibits us from providing any details about what happened, how it happened or any disciplinary action we took. It’s unfortunate because there are always two sides to every story.

What we can say is that anyone that shows up with a gun is held accountable, officer or passenger.


TSA EoS Blog Team