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Duty Free Debunked

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Friday, May 02, 2008
duty free

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.

Lynn

TSA EoS Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Winstonsmith on

Really TSA, you can do better than this for a distraction. At least the last one had cute puppies.

Nice to know what to do with duty free booze should I decide to bring any home next time I go overseas, but that doesn't make the MMW any less invasive. Show us the frontal images as has been requested please.

And while we're on the topic of TSA obfuscation, how about a little more disclosure on the TSO who brought the gun into the sterile area in Denver.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, the bottle of single malt I bought in the EU and placed in a tamper resistant bag is not safe enough to fly with me in my carry-on. But you are just AOK with me repacking my bags and having it fly in the belly of the plane, assuming neither the baggage handlers nor the baggage checkers steal or break it.

Please try to make some sensible rules.

Submitted by Dave on

Why not just get rid of your completely insane and idiotic liquids policy in the first place? There is no scientific fact behind it (other than "just believe us, but we can't really tell you because it's SSI). Stop the nonsense.

Submitted by Stefaneh on

This information is unfortunately wrong and may lead to problems for people transferring in Europe.

If you buy liquids in an US airport you will NOT be able to bring it through security in the EU even if carried in a sealed bag.
Only liquids in a sealed bag bought in an EU/EES airport, on board a EU/EES operated carrier, or bought at Singapore Changi airport will be allowed.

I know this since i have been working in airport security for the last 6 years. A simple check with your EU counterparts would have corrected this mistake before publishing missleading information.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This post sure went up fast.

Pushed that TSO gun story right down.

Were you out of dog stories?

No ponies for the show?

...and just where are those G rated MMW photos?

,>)

- T. Saint

Submitted by Marshall's SO on

WOW! Another great deflection!

When are we going to see the frontal pictures?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"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."

Why wouldn't the TSA allow the stores to use the bag?? This is not a positive TSA action, this is no action at all! All that is happening is that the stores are figuring out a solution.

I am still waiting for those frontal full body scan images.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can you point to even ONE chemist who thinks the 3-1-1 rule is anything other than incompetent nonsense? Of course you can't. Save us (and yourselves) a headache and get rid of this stupid rule and spend your time on something that makes us SAFER, like, oh, I dunno, CARGO SCREENING.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How is this a deflection, the MMW and the TSO gun story are still there just scroll down a bit. Or Fav the link to the blog, and come back to see if they update it again.

Also are we not allowed to get any other TSA info until all your other questions are answered. I am not going to hold my breath waiting for an answer, but I would still like to read TSA Information coming out. Dogs, Ponies, or Nipple Rings, at least they are still talking, and haven't shut down communicating all together. Get a grip!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Amazing! All the non-existent liquid bombs can be toped by a plastic bag that glues shut! Amazing!

Where are the male/female front/back MMW pics?

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

So where are the frontal MMW pictures you said are preschool safe?

What's the scientific basis for 3-1-1?

What are you going to do about states that don't comply with REAL ID?

Do you have any plans to close the security hole between TSA saying a checked bag is safe and the bag going on the plane?

Submitted by Anonymous on
at least they are still talking, and haven't shut down communicating all together.

Actually they have stopped talking. TSA and the Blog Team only post PR stories. No response to questions asked by readers of this blog. Talking implies two way communication. This blog does not meet that standard.

I say yes, no more TSA PR BS until they stand up and resolve questions that their own postings have caused.
Submitted by Winstonsmith on

To the Anonymous person who wrote tbe following:

How is this a deflection, the MMW and the TSO gun story are still there just scroll down a bit. Or Fav the link to the blog, and come back to see if they update it again.

Also are we not allowed to get any other TSA info until all your other questions are answered. I am not going to hold my breath waiting for an answer, but I would still like to read TSA Information coming out. Dogs, Ponies, or Nipple Rings, at least they are still talking, and haven't shut down communicating all together. Get a grip!

You must be new here. The typical pattern for this blog is that TSA will post something controversial of which it seems somehow proud. The public will excoriate to a greater or lesser degree. The TSA will ignore the criticism or come up with some sort of extraordinarily weak justification or, in the case of something very controversial, such as the Millimeter Wave Strip Search Machine or the Gun Toting TSO, will try to bury it quickly with a post about a fairly non-controversial topic (i.e. puppies, booze pouches).

There have been a lot of questions that a lot of people have put out there that the TSA has either been ignoring or not fully answering so we are just reminding them ever so gently that those questions are still out there and are not going away and that the number of people who are asking them will only continue to grow until they get answered.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"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…"

One of the things I enjoy about this blog is the dry sense of humor that you sneak in. If nothing else, it makes TSA seem more human.

Submitted by Dunstan on

Cheer up folks;
"John McCain on CNN, making a speech about how making universal health care a government program would be inefficient, irrational, and expensive. He then said, "If you think health care should be run by the government, go to the airport and go through security."

At least one candidate is aware there is a problem.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why should they bother to post frontal pictures of the MMW ? All of you idiots would just say they were faked anyway.

Submitted by Dave Nelson on

My first inclination when I first read this story was to say, "So what?"

Then, when I got past the idea that this was yet another smokescreen to try to divert our attention from MWW strip searches, screeners who bring guns to work without punishment, etc, I hit upon another reason for this grand pronouncement.

My guess is that this was a quid pro quo or some other concession thrown Europe's way in order to be able to allow Chertoff to get away with requiring gobs of personal information on passengers heading to the US that blow away any EU privacy rules.

Come on, Skeletor, just fess up, OK?

And, while you're at it, where are the full frontal MWW images? You have nothing to hide, right?

Submitted by Winstonsmith on

To the naïve poster who came out with this pearl of questionable price:

Why should they bother to post frontal pictures of the MMW ? All of you idiots would just say they were faked anyway.

The TSA claims that the images the MMW takes could be posted on the cover of Reader's Digest or in a kindergarten classroom and cause no offense whatsoever. Several people have provided links in the MMW posts to the kinds of images that whole body imaging systems are capable of producing, including the MMW. These images are decidedly not suitable for, shall we say, family viewing.

The TSA has a documented track record of obfuscation and outright falsehood, not unlike the administration that created it. It has earned the derision and mistrust of the American public and does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

When a known liar makes an extraordinary claim it is not unreasonable not to take such claim on blind faith, but to ask for proof. We "idiots" as you have so uncharitably characterized us, are demanding that proof, nothing more, and will settle for nothing less.

You can call me whatever names your heart desires. I personally have a pretty thick skin. Demanding the truth from the government is the right and the patriotic thing to do and despite what you may think I do consider myself a patriot.

To accept what the government says without question or independent corroboration and to give blind obedience to it is to be guilty of a certain gross intellectual laziness that ends up as mere nationalism trying to wear a patriotic uniform. Who is the real idiot?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dear all,

Since the TSA is not getting us those images, have a look at the "Those pesky images" link bellow for the images available on the web.

Submitted by Dunstan on

While we are on the subject of sealed packaging, let me one again mention the lack of security of check in luggage.
During our travels we are constantly reminded to not leave our carry on luggage unattended. The reasoning is that someone could conceivably put something into that luggage that is dangerous.
After our check in luggage has undergone a security check, however, no such protection from tampering is provided either by TSA or the airline luggage handlers. TSA alone has caught over 200 of its own employees tampering with passenger's baggage. This inconsistency has been brought up numerous times in this blog, and by the press. It really begs the question of how seriously the TSA takes its own mission.

So, TSA, how seriously do you take your mission of keeping commercial air travelers safe?

Submitted by Anonymous on

ayn r. key said...

"Do you have any plans to close the security hole between TSA saying a checked bag is safe and the bag going on the plane?"


I'm not too sure on what you are asking or complaining about here. Could you clarify a little more? If the checked bag is cleared through security I do not know why it would not be safe. Sure there are holes in security. Is there a police officer around every time you speed? No there is not. TSA can not be everywhere it is just an impossible feat. Nothing can ever be 100% but I can say this, there is probably less % chance that something else bad could happen with the security in place.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Everybody is all up in arms about the pictures, but nobody seems to notice the fact that TSA is giving out false information about duty free that could get Americans into trouble when transferring in Europe. If they can´t even get that right what else are they wrong about.

Submitted by Scott on

Let make it even more complicated as to when items can be brought through a checkpoint. Better yet, eliminate the prohibition all together.

Sometimes rules with good intentions just make the whole problem worse.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...

Dear all,

Since the TSA is not getting us those images, have a look at the "Those pesky images" link bellow for the images available on the web.

?!?!? What links?
Submitted by Trollkiller on

If anyone wants to see the L3 brochure on the MMW I have posted it here.

We are still waiting on the frontal image that the TSA swears is safe for work, safe for Reader's Digest and safe for pre-schoolers.

Has anyone at the TSA noticed this issue is not going away? Puppies, duty free bags and tossing a TSO under the bus is not working. Why don't you guys try the one thing that will work. Post the damn image.

Submitted by Anonymous on
So, TSA, how seriously do you take your mission of keeping commercial air travelers safe?

Not one little bit.

If they took it seriously, they wouldn't waste their and our time with the nonsensical 3-1-1 policy.

If they took it seriously, they wouldn't waste their and our time on mandatory shoe removal thanks to one (1) incident six years ago.

If they took it seriously, they'd answer legitimate questions on this blog.

If they took it seriously, no TSO would ever threaten a passenger at a checkpoint or on this blog.

TSA? More like CYA.
Submitted by Winstonsmith on

Dunstan, you stated:

TSA alone has caught over 200 of its own employees tampering with passenger's baggage. This inconsistency has been brought up numerous times in this blog, and by the press.

I would like to be able to quote this statistic as well as it is quite damning, but before I quote any statistic, I like to be able to verify it independently. Can you please point me to the source? I think that might also clear up some of the questioning a bit further down the post trail as well between ayn r. key and an anonymous poster wondering why we would be concerned about the safety of checked baggage anyway.

Thanks for keeping their feet to the fire.

WS

Submitted by Anonymous on

Trollkiller,

Under "links to this post", there is a "Those pesky images" link. Nothing new really, but all in the same place.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...

Trollkiller,

Under "links to this post", there is a "Those pesky images" link. Nothing new really, but all in the same place.

Ah, I jump straight to comments and completely missed that.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Even in the rear MMW image, here, you can see that the dangly bit between the person's legs is about half as long as the distance from the waistband to the cuffs of his tighty-whities.

So just what is the part being "debunked" in the "Duty Free Debunked" post? That you can trust the TSA / Customs / Airlines to create and communicate a coherent policy?

Submitted by Dunstan on

Hi, winstonsmith,
"I would like to be able to quote this statistic as well as it is quite damning, but before I quote any statistic, I like to be able to verify it independently. Can you please point me to the source? I think that might also clear up some of the questioning a bit further down the post trail as well between ayn r. key and an anonymous poster wondering why we would be concerned about the safety of checked baggage anyway."


The statistic is one that just stuck in my mind, if not in my craw. It is from the TSA blog:

"And in some cases, rightfully so... Unfortunately, TSA has experienced its problems with theft. To date, we have terminated and sought prosecution for about 200 of our employees who have been accused of stealing, either from checked bags, passengers’ carry-ons or fellow employees."

"Thanks for keeping their feet to the fire."

We shall see if their feet are even warm...

Submitted by Dunstan on

"winstonsmith said...

I think that might also clear up some of the questioning a bit further down the post trail as well between ayn r. key and an anonymous poster wondering why we would be concerned about the safety of checked baggage anyway."

Venture over to the Travel and Security section of Flyertalk and
search for baggage and theft related threads. Then think about the people who have to fly with tool chests, sales sample cases, or other valuables that need to be checked in, because of their employment. Damage due to negligent repacking after TSA hand searches is a problem. Theft is a problem. It is really a glaring example of little TSA cares about secure, safe flight.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Anonymous, May 4, 2008, 12:25 PM

The security hole is that the TSA insists that bags be either unlocked or have TSA approved easily breakable locks only. After the TSA clears a bag, it is completely outside TSA control and in baggage handler control.

It's bad enough that there have been documented instances of TSOs stealing from bags, but there are also instances of stealing from bags that appear to be unrelated to TSOs. In other words, the baggage handlers.

The TSA created the situation when they forbade us from making sure our bags were secure. In years past we could lock our bags. Now we are not allowed to do so. We cannot do so because the TSA says so. They created an unsafe situation.

They also say "once we've cleared it through security it is no longer our responsibility." They create an unsafe situation and refuse to take responsibility for the unsafe situation they created.

Do you understand now?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Aunt Arky,
Please get your facts straight. The TSA requires bags to be left unlocked because Congress passed a law that requires the TSA to screen all bags. Your beef is with your congressional reps, not TSA. By the way, do you have a better suggestion on how to comply with the law? So in essence, TSA did not create this, your elected reps did.

Submitted by Winstonsmith on

Dunstan to continue with:

Venture over to the Travel and Security section of Flyertalk and
search for baggage and theft related threads. Then think about the people who have to fly with tool chests, sales sample cases, or other valuables that need to be checked in, because of their employment. Damage due to negligent repacking after TSA hand searches is a problem. Theft is a problem. It is really a glaring example of little TSA cares about secure, safe flight.

This is exactly why I asked you for the source of the statistic about the sticky fingered 200. Now that you mentioned the source I do remember the TSA blog post. I'll definitely follow up on Flyer Talk though as you suggested. Thanks for your follow up. If only the TSA were so responsive to questions we might actually have a real dialog going here.

WS

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Dear Anonymoust May 5, 2008 12:36 PM,

My beef is with the TSA not maintaining control but instead abdicating all responsibility. There should be a TSA rep overseeing the bags from the moment they leave our control to the moment they enter the plane.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In Response to Ayn R. Key's comment...My beef is with the TSA not maintaining control but instead abdicating all responsibility. There should be a TSA rep overseeing the bags from the moment they leave our control to the moment they enter the plane.

So the air carriers have no responsibility here, Ayn? TSA turns checked bags over to the airlines after screening to be transported to the planes and it's TSA's JOB to keep an eye on the airlines' baggage handlers??? The airlines LOVE the fact that TSA asks travelers to keep their bags unlocked. This way, their baggage handlers get to steal from us and the airlines get to point the finger at TSA every time. Sure, a few screeners have helped themselves over the years, but this issue mostly falls on the airlines who hold themselves accountable for nothing...and their employees know it.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

But without the TSA saying "keep them all unlocked" there would be no need to trust the integrity of the baggage handlers.

Submitted by Dunstan on

"Anonymous said...

Aunt Arky,
Please get your facts straight. The TSA requires bags to be left unlocked because Congress passed a law that requires the TSA to screen all bags. Your beef is with your congressional reps, not TSA. By the way, do you have a better suggestion on how to comply with the law? So in essence, TSA did not create this, your elected reps did.

May 5, 2008 12:36 PM"

If TSA would seal the bags after inspecting the contents, or allow the passenger to lock the luggage with a secure lock, you could stop your quest for someone to blame. Is id up to our Congress to order you to seal the bags in a pilfer proof way? If TSA really cared about security they would have plugged this gap a long time ago. That is TSA's job, isn't it? Security, you know, keeping planes and passengers safeguarded from harm?

Submitted by Dunstan on

winstonsmith said
"This is exactly why I asked you for the source of the statistic about the sticky fingered 200. Now that you mentioned the source I do remember the TSA blog post. I'll definitely follow up on Flyer Talk though as you suggested. Thanks for your follow up. If only the TSA were so responsive to questions we might actually have a real dialog going here.

WS"

I think they hope we will hold our collective breath until they see fit to cough up the truth dribble by drop.

By the way, about things being added to luggage- a whole TSA uniform found by a woman flying from Miami to NJ. She turned it in.
I'm glad it wasn't an explosive device. TSA has yet to account for hundreds of uniforms it has misplaced over the years.

Submitted by Lulu on

I enjoy reading the blog because someone is letting you say what you want even if you are picking on Bob or his puppies. I love to see the information on this blog and I don't see is as cover up or deception.I don't even see it as a conspiracy to hide the truth.I see the Blog Team trying to give out infomation that is available for all to read even folks with ill intent.I see them walking on that fine line but leaving you with many questions.Maybe you make them go back and think, how do we answer that.Either way it is like a soap opera but I will tune in tomorrow to see if the MMW photos ever appear. I want to see if Bob, the puppies or the Blog Team can ever redeem themselves but one thing I know for sure just like a soap opera the drama will continue.The answers they give us will never be enough.

Submitted by Dunstan on

lulu said:
"I want to see if Bob, the puppies or the Blog Team can ever redeem themselves but one thing I know for sure just like a soap opera the drama will continue.The answers they give us will never be enough."

Bob does exercise his sense of humor fairly often, but the puppies beat him out on cuteness, to the point of redemption. You can almost picture Chance gritting his teeth, though. We just have to keep wailing on the Mission Creep until it heads in the proper direction.

Submitted by Michael 8-) on

*SIGH* Lynn, the fact that you guys are posting something about this just shows the continuing ridiculousness of this policy.

Let's make sure I understand the concern here. I'll concede for just this comment that we actually need to be concerned about terrorists sneaking liquid explosives onto a plane.

Now, I've purchased a bottle of liquor or perfume in an airport, usually after I have gone through security. Apparently, I now take that bottle into a bathroom to do exactly what with it? Switch it out with illegal liquids I wasn't allowed to bring through security? Convert them into something dangerous using the makeshift lab I quickly set up in the bathroom?

How much more ridiculous does the TSA have to make air travel?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The TSA requires bags to be left unlocked because Congress passed a law that requires the TSA to screen all bags. Your beef is with your congressional reps, not TSA."

The legislators did not mandate that the TSA _not_ allow us to lock our bags with good locks.

That is solely the TSA's policy.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Responding to - Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing! All the non-existent liquid bombs can be toped by a plastic bag that glues shut! Amazing!

Where are the male/female front/back MMW pics?

___________________________________

Have you been lying all these years to your buddies and now are worried the truth will be seen / known? Besides a few conspiracy nuts who really cares.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous Marshall's SO said...

WOW! Another great deflection!

When are we going to see the frontal pictures?

__________________________________
perv! Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get you!

Submitted by Dunstan on

Michael 8-) said...
"How much more ridiculous does the TSA have to make air travel?"

They probably have a ways to go yet. After all, Boeing, Airbus and a few airlines are still in business.

Submitted by Dunstan on

"Have you been lying all these years to your buddies and now are worried the truth will be seen / known? Besides a few conspiracy nuts who really cares."

How rude, crude, and inappropriate, and you don't even know the gender of the OP.
Perhaps the conspiracy nuts are the DHS and TSA people who see a potential terrorist in every toddler and wheelchair bound grandmother...

Submitted by Anonymous on

"How much more ridiculous does the TSA have to make air travel?"

Google this one: TSA freeze.

,>)

T. Saint

Submitted by David on

I was a victim of the overzealous regulations of TSA, I bought wine in the secure area of an Italian airport. The items were placed in a sealed bag and then I was whisked off to Newark where the TSA decided to seize the wine and took it from me. The initial TSA agent could not give me a reason or offer alternatives. I asked for a supervisor who was, at best, very confused and also unable to offer any alternatives (I did not have a checked bag) and simply responded to each question (asked in a very civil and calm manner) what are my alternatives, what are my options.

Once again the skies are made safer by our TSA agents, wine can be such a hazard, at least in the USA, as European airports must be slack in their responsibilities.

David

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