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3 oz or 3.4 oz? What gives???

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
liquid

Short answer: 3.4 oz. For more details, read on…

OK, here’s the scoop. If the U.S. would have switched to the metrics system in the 70s, this wouldn’t be an issue. How many of you out there had to learn the metric system in school only to never use it…

When TSA lifted the total liquid ban and implemented the 3-1-1 program, the permissible amount of liquids, aerosols and gels was 3oz. Press releases went out, WebPages were updated, and signs were printed and shipped out nationwide to 457 airports.

When TSA rolled out 3-1-1, the European Union was not on board yet. When the EU decided to lift the ban and allow liquids to travel, the amount permitted was 100ml. Well, as those of you who like me had to learn metric conversion in grade school, youmight remember that 100ml = 3.4oz. not 3 oz. In order to align with the EU, we decided to allow liquids in containers up to 3.4oz. We also decided to keep our signage the same to maintain consistency. (Besides, 3.4-1-1 just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

From a marketing perspective, 3 ounces was easier to remember than 3.4. For the European Union, 100 milliliters was easier to remember than 89. So, behind the scenes, we’ve been allowing up to 3.4 ounces, but it hasn’t been reflected on the web or in signage.

We’ve read your concerns here on the blog, so from now on, we’ll use 3.4 on the blog when talking about liquid limits, and also make changes (as soon as possible) to the TSA web site. I worked with Lynn on this and she has crafted a new response for the contact center to use when communicating with the public. We are also going to send a message to the workforce as a reminder.

Some people have asked why we don’t convert the net weight of the toothpaste to volume since they are different. Good question. The 3.4 container/volume rule was created to make it simple and streamlined for both passengers and our officers. As you could imagine, taking weight into consideration would be a wrench in the spokes. I’m sure the public doesn’t want our officers using scales or conversion charts, etc.

I hope this has helped you better understand the 3.0/3.4 oz. conundrum.

Thanks,

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Brian on

To take this to its logical conclusion, we're also permitted to use 1 liter ziploc bags, which are about 10% larger than quart size - right?

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Bob: thanks.

I would point out, as a totally random aside, that 100-1-1 would be a perfectly reasonable marketing slogan, if you made the decision to announce the limit in metric rather than imperial units.

And, yes, some of the emphasis on this topic is silly. But I think the public would adapt. After all, I have to buy my diet soda in 67.628 ounce containers these days, and I've adapted ...

Submitted by Mr Gel-pack on

OK, you marketing geniuses, are the web pages and blog pages the authoritative rules that we are supposed to follow?

If I print out a TSA web page that says breastmilk is medicine, and another that says frozen gels are allowed for medical items, can anyone guarantee that some poorly trained TSO supervisor won't confiscate the gel pack?

A TSO supervisor in STL confiscated our gel pack, which led to the spoiling of 13 oz of my wife's breast milk. She cried when we poured it out.

I don't trust your organization to train its people well, since you don't communicate your rules well to either the public or your own workforce.

Good luck with the "We are also going to send a message to the workforce as a reminder."

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA, as you well know, Bob, has repeatedly refused to present any independent research whatsoever to suggest that its liquid policies -- whether 3.4 or 3 -- bear any grounding in reality. Given that this is the case, why does TSA persist in this absurd charade that we and you both know is pointless and does nothing to make anyone at all safer?

If, as you claim, the official limit is 3.4, when will TSA's signage be adjusted to reflect this?

What steps are being taken to ensure that every TSO knows that the limit is 3.4, not 3?

What recourse does a citizen have against a TSO who insists on enforcing an incorrect 3 oz limit?

Submitted by Yourmom on

I had been wondering about this. Thanks for posting.

Submitted by Bob on

yourmom said... I had been wondering about this. Thanks for posting. February 25, 2009 5:42 PM

Thanks Mom! Hey, can you bring a bowl of Cap'n Crunch down to the basement?

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow, between this and the fact that some TSA guys call Saline medicine and some don't, the liquids rule just gets more and more confusing. Thanks for making it all clear as mud!

Submitted by Bubba on

Bob,

As discussed at Flyertalk, more than one person has received this official statement from the TSA Contact Center (excerpt):

"Passengers traveling on an international flight from Europe or other foreign countries into the United States, the 3.4 oz containers in the zip lock bag will be accepted in carry on and will not be confiscated at the checkpoint.

Those passengers traveling from the United States into a foreign country or traveling on a domestic flight within the United States must carry the 3.0 oz containers as carry on in a zip lock bag."

This is a significantly different statement from yours: It says 100 mL are allowed if you are flying in from abroad, but not domestically.

Who should we believe?

And while we are at it, please define a liquid per TSA policy, and please provide peer-reviewed scientific evidence that liquids are a threat to commercial aviation.

Submitted by Tomas on

Thanks for finally saying officially, in an unofficial blog, that thousands of government signs and even the information propagated to the public from your very information center has been wrong for a couple of years.

Now if we only had the actual written rule from TSA about this, instead of having to depend on GAO reports and the ephemeral mentions of the actual rule on-line, maybe we would have something.

I won't repeat Phil's request - he's done so many times himself. :^)

Just rememeber the rules we must follow are NOT you playbook...

(Seems I can't help being snarky today. Sorry. I'll try to go back to being reasonable if TSA will make the same atempt.)

Tomas

Submitted by RB on

You say you will use 3.4 here and make changes to the TSA website. Will the signage and audio messages in airports be updated to reflect the correct information?

Submitted by Anonymous on

for anyone who says liquids can not be used as a threat go to google and jus type in liquid explosives in the video section. You only need to have a small explosion to put a hole in the aircraft

Submitted by Trollkiller on

Conversion charts would be an easy solution. When it doubt just look.

After a while the most common sizes and weights would become second nature to the TSOs.

Submitted by MSC on

I'm glad to see the new administration's intelligence has begun to filter down to the TSA :-)

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Bubba: with respect, Bob answered your question in the original posting. He said:

I worked with Lynn on this and she has crafted a new response for the contact center to use when communicating with the public.

In short: the old message that the contact center has been using, which we've seen posted here and elsewhere, is wrong, and they're gonna fix it.

Submitted by George on
Some people have asked why we don’t convert the net weight of the toothpaste to volume since they are different. Good question. The 3.4 container/volume rule was created to make it simple and streamlined for both passengers and our officers. As you could imagine, taking weight into consideration would be a wrench in the spokes.

The spokes came from the factory pre-jammed with spanners. And the sound you hear is the square wheel trying to roll. Many of the items in Freedom Baggies are sold and labeled by weight rather than volume. But the rules only address volume, which for things like toothpaste or stick deodorant can't be readily determined from the weight. So how does any TSO enforce the rule with those items? And how does a passenger obey it? It's inviting arbitrary and capricious determinations, wrongful confiscation of innocuous items, and passengers who are frustrated and disgusted with the entire system.

The "3-1-1" rule (now retitled the "100-1-1 rule"?) has always struck me as one of those bureaucratic gems that seemed elegant and foolproof when presented on secret PowerPoint charts in classified briefings, to executives who travel by government jet and never set foot in public airports. But when it was declassified and implemented at real airport checkpoints, by real TSOs who may lack training and/or intelligence, it turned out to be far less elegant and foolproof, with myriad complexities the experts never remotely considered behind their locked doors at TSA headquarters. But of course they'd never admit that their brilliant scheme has flaws. The problems are all the fault of passengers who don't respect authority.
Submitted by Trollkiller on
Bob said...
yourmom said... I had been wondering about this. Thanks for posting. February 25, 2009 5:42 PM

Thanks Mom! Hey, can you bring a bowl of Cap'n Crunch down to the basement?

Bob

EoS Blog Team

I have the image of the Southpark WoW episode running through my brain.
Submitted by Anonymous on

TK,

If you mean conversion charts for products sold by weight, that would imply knowing the density of all different brands of toothpaste....

Submitted by Bubba on

Jim,

Thanks for the info I overlooked.

Now all I need to know is what is a liquid, and where the science is behind this strange policy.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Changing the signs? What would be the point? We were just told on the previous post that 'it is human nature NOT to read signs'. So why should we spend all the money to change something you won't bother to look at anyway.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Just a thought guys. Do you think the reason TSA doesn't bother updating their website and signs at airports is because they're about to increase the liquid limit in the near future?

What do you think?

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
Just a thought guys. Do you think the reason TSA doesn't bother updating their website and signs at airports is because they're about to increase the liquid limit in the near future?

What do you think?

February 26, 2009 7:19 AM
..........................
How long has the standard been 3.4oz/100ml?

How long before TSA relaxes the current standard?

The bottom line is that TSA expects travelers to abide by certain standards yet fail to provide those standards to the very people who need them.

If one must comply with some government requirement then government must supply accurate, timely information.

TSA fails on this point.

Submitted by Anonymous #542 on

MSC said...
I'm glad to see the new administration's intelligence has begun to filter down to the TSA :-)

Give me a break! The new administration doesn't even have an administrator for TSA yet. This is not them this is something TSA is doing internally without the new administration's help. Don't give credit where it doesn't belong.

Submitted by Anonymous #542 on

As for this nonsense on advertising. When it is something we need to know such as the limit, it is unfair to the passengers that you give us wrong information. We pay you guys to serve us! So in the past when I wanted to take something that just didn't come any smaller I thought it wasn't aloud. Thanks for being mean in this aspect.

Submitted by Patrick (BOS TSO) on

Yay, now onto more pressing matters!

:)

I've always regarded the limit as 3.4oz and never below.

Now, if only people would stop arguing that 5oz hair creams are 3.4oz, I'd be alot more easier.

Submitted by Jhess56 on

Perhaps if it hasn't already been,this info could be posted on the various airline websites.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Now all I need to know is what is a liquid, and where the science is behind this strange policy."

There is no science behind this policy, or behind much of anything the domestic terrorists at TSA do.

Submitted by Let'sTryAgain on

I notice many posts that were made after mine have shown up but mine has not. Perhaps if I removed the word “b********s” you will post it.

______

I am bringing forward a conversation from the thread on Shift Briefs because I believe it is important.

kellymae81 has stated that screeners can see altered shoes inside of carry-on luggage. I am here to tell you that is absolutely not true. You see, I wear “altered” shoes because of a birth defect. I also always pack a second pair of altered shoes in my carry-on. Not once during the many trips I have made has any screener ever noticed those shoes and called a bag check for them. They have, however, called bags checks when they thought they saw something else – and went right on by the shoes in their zeal to find something that was not there in the first place.

They have also gone berserk when they see the altered shoes in the x-ray that I have several times been forced to remove at the checkpoint in spite of the fact that I should not be walking without the benefit of my orthopedic shoes and, according to the TSA rules, am not required to remove. However, sometimes it's just easier to take the darned things off that to argue.

Submitted by Archimedes Test... on

Can I sell you some expensive special volume measuring screening devices to help you measure suspected over-volume items? We carry an Archimedes VMX-100 tester for only $1000. And for checking the sizes of the freedom baggies we carry an Archimedes VMX-946 for only $3900. Our Volume Measuring Examination technology was developed by a remarkable inventor, and has been used by major governments for over 2,200 years.

You wouldn't want a lack of equipment to cause TSA to make unreasonable and unwarranted seizures. Or would you?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Mr. Gel-pack said...
OK, you marketing geniuses, are the web pages and blog pages the authoritative rules that we are supposed to follow?

If I print out a TSA web page that says breastmilk is medicine, and another that says frozen gels are allowed for medical items, can anyone guarantee that some poorly trained TSO supervisor won't confiscate the gel pack?

A TSO supervisor in STL confiscated our gel pack, which led to the spoiling of 13 oz of my wife's breast milk. She cried when we poured it out.

I don't trust your organization to train its people well, since you don't communicate your rules well to either the public or your own workforce.

Good luck with the "We are also going to send a message to the workforce as a reminder."


You have recounted this story in what seems like every blog post there is. TSA officers are human. This supervisor in question, clearly made a mistake - I think everyone can agree on that. That does not mean that the 40,000+ other TSOs would make that same mistake. It is unfortunate that your wife experienced what was obviously an emotional situation for her and hopefully it will not happen to you or anyone else in the future. If you feel that printing out the webpage for a specific medical item that you must travel with would be beneficial, then I would encourage you to do that. I'm sure TSA officers aren't the only people who have made a mistake once in a while at their job. From your posts, it sounds like you must be the one in a million person that does everything perfectly every time. Lucky you. Perhaps you can show TSA how to never make a mistake. At least the mistake, while unfortunate, was on the side of being overcautious than a mistake of being lax and permitting something that shouldn't be permitted. TSA policies have been known to change frequently, especially when the threat is first identified, and maybe, just maybe, that supervisor had a moment where he / she reverted to the previous procedure where NO liquids were permitted regardless of their nature. Again they are human, we all are.
That being said, I think it is time to move on beyond this point. If you want to keep being mad, that is your right, but it can't change what happened in the past.

Submitted by Gussie Fink-Nottle on

Now if only someone in TSA could explain why 3.4 ounces of shampoo is perfectly safe, but 4 ounces is a problem...or why two 3.4 ounce tubes of toothpaste can't blow up an airplane but one 6.8 ounce tube can...or what peculiar quality of airports makes it impossible for multiple people to collude to each bring a little bit of Magic Exploding Liquid through (in little 3.4 ounce bottles) and then combine them, then we'd really be getting somewhere!

Submitted by Tomas on
Yet Another Anonymous wrote...
Just a thought guys. Do you think the reason TSA doesn't bother updating their website and signs at airports is because they're about to increase the liquid limit in the near future?

What do you think?
________________

I wonder why they didn't update any of their public information on their site, in print, or on signs in the over two years they had to do it since the change. I wonder why as recently as this past month they were STILL putting out totally incorrect information to the public from their official information center. I'm wondering why the only government source for the correct information has been the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) for the past two years, and not the TSA.

C'mon, everything TSA put out that was new in the past two years could have given the correct information to the public on this matter, but instead they chose not to give correct information.

With that sort of performance in providing the public correct information why should we believe ANYTHING said by TSA?

What do YOU think?

Tom (1 of 5-6)
Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Gussie Fink-Nottle writes:

Now if only someone in TSA could explain why 3.4 ounces of shampoo is perfectly safe, but 4 ounces is a problem

If you start with the premise that you need to limit liquids aboard an aircraft, you're going to have to draw the line somewhere. Obviously, there's nothing magic about 4 ounces versus 3.4 ounces ... but that would be true if the limit was 34 ounces, or 340 ounces. But if you don't have a hard limit, you have no limit at all. (And, yes, some people find that preferable. I don't have an opinion.)

...or why two 3.4 ounce tubes of toothpaste can't blow up an airplane but one 6.8 ounce tube can

TSA has said in the past that they are concerned about the size of the containers that could be used as a vessel for combining compounds to create an explosive. Keeping the containers small, in principle, limits the size of what could be created.

...or what peculiar quality of airports makes it impossible for multiple people to collude to each bring a little bit of Magic Exploding Liquid through (in little 3.4 ounce bottles) and then combine them, then we'd really be getting somewhere!

TSA would point out that every time you require The Bad Guys to perform one additional step, you make Their Evil Plan more difficult to execute ... making failure of the plan, or detection of the plan, more likely. (Perhaps only slightly more likely, to be sure ... but security isn't an all-or-nothing concept.)

Again ... I take no position on whether or not the limit on liquids make sense. But if you start from the premise that limiting liquids is necessary, the means by which TSA enforces those limits have some sound reasoning behind them.

Submitted by Robert Johnson on
Quote from Anonymous: "At least the mistake, while unfortunate, was on the side of being overcautious than a mistake of being lax and permitting something that shouldn't be permitted."

In other words, CYA.

The "Abundance of Caution®" excuse is really starting to get old. It's tossed around like a get out of jail free card for TSA screw ups.

I find it amusing that when the shoe's (pun intended) on (off?) the other foot and TSA messes up, like the stun gun incident or fails Red Team tests, it's spuns as a positive. Funny how the "Abundance of Caution®" mantra disappears then.

Robert
Submitted by Anonymous on

"You have recounted this story in what seems like every blog post there is."

And he should continue to do so until TSA apologizes and takes steps to ensure that no traveler will be abused as he and his wife were.

"TSA officers are human. This supervisor in question, clearly made a mistake - I think everyone can agree on that."

That supervisor should be reprimanded, and TSA should apologize to this citizen and his wife for abusing them.

"That does not mean that the 40,000+ other TSOs would make that same mistake. It is unfortunate that your wife experienced what was obviously an emotional situation for her and hopefully it will not happen to you or anyone else in the future."

Why did it happen in the first place? Why was TSA incapable of following its own stated procedures, even when presented with a printout of its own web site? Why are the supervisor and TSOs involved still employed?

"If you feel that printing out the webpage for a specific medical item that you must travel with would be beneficial, then I would encourage you to do that."

As has been repeatedly noticed, the TSA employees in question ignored the printout from their own agency's web site and made up their own rule, on the spot, at tremendous emotional cost to the couple they abused and for absolutely no increase in security. Indeed, these two citizens now justifiably hate TSA, as do thousands of other patriots.

"I'm sure TSA officers aren't the only people who have made a mistake once in a while at their job."

So? These TSA employees (let's not call them "officers," since that makes them sound like law enforcement) made the mistake in question. That's what's at issue here.

"From your posts, it sounds like you must be the one in a million person that does everything perfectly every time. Lucky you. Perhaps you can show TSA how to never make a mistake."

Shame on you. TSA abused an innocent couple and all you can do is throw snark at them? You should be ashamed of yourself.

"At least the mistake, while unfortunate, was on the side of being overcautious than a mistake of being lax and permitting something that shouldn't be permitted."

The mistake was not one of overcaution, it was one of reckless disregard for TSA's stated procedures that caused significant emotional trauma. And it was one that provided no increase in security, because despite all of TSA's lies -- and that is all they are, lies -- liquids pose no threat to any aircraft.

"TSA policies have been known to change frequently, especially when the threat is first identified, and maybe, just maybe, that supervisor had a moment where he / she reverted to the previous procedure where NO liquids were permitted regardless of their nature. Again they are human, we all are."

Since none of TSA's liquid policies have any grounding in fact, your suggestion is nonsensical. TSA employees are obligated to know what current policies are, and when they make mistakes that cause harm to citizens, they should apologize or be reprimanded or fired.

"That being said, I think it is time to move on beyond this point."

You think wrong. An innocent family was abused by TSA and is seeking justice. They should not "get over it." If anyone needs to get over something, it's TSA and its nonsensical policies that do nothing to make anyone safer.

"If you want to keep being mad, that is your right, but it can't change what happened in the past."

That does not mean TSA cannot apologize and reprimand or fire the incompetents who abused this innocent family.

Submitted by Anonymous on
I am here to tell you that is absolutely not true. You see, I wear “altered” shoes because of a birth defect. I also always pack a second pair of altered shoes in my carry-on. Not once during the many trips I have made has any screener ever noticed those shoes and called a bag check for them.

Perhaps your shoes are not looking like they have stuff packed inside of them. I think the TSA is referring to altered as in explosives or other mass stuff inside the sole of the shoe.

-James
Submitted by Anonymous on
Now if only someone in TSA could explain why 3.4 ounces of shampoo is perfectly safe, but 4 ounces is a problem...or why two 3.4 ounce tubes of toothpaste can't blow up an airplane but one 6.8 ounce tube can...or what peculiar quality of airports makes it impossible for multiple people to collude to each bring a little bit of Magic Exploding Liquid through (in little 3.4 ounce bottles) and then combine them, then we'd really be getting somewhere!

They said that information is classified.

-James
Submitted by Mr Gel-pack on

Re: "From your posts, it sounds like you must be the one in a million person that does everything perfectly every time. Lucky you. Perhaps you can show TSA how to never make a mistake. At least the mistake, while unfortunate, was on the side of being overcautious than a mistake of being lax and permitting something that shouldn't be permitted. TSA policies have been known to change frequently, especially when the threat is first identified, and maybe, just maybe, that supervisor had a moment where he / she reverted to the previous procedure where NO liquids were permitted regardless of their nature. Again they are human, we all are.
That being said, I think it is time to move on beyond this point. If you want to keep being mad, that is your right, but it can't change what happened in the past."

###

Anonymous, I make plenty of mistakes. Everyone does. What matters is what you do once you make a mistake. From what I see, I think TSA's management style guarantees mistakes, and not just small ones. Adding one more secret memo to the pile of other secret memos doesn't fix the systemic problem that bit me and my wife: you don't have a well documented set of rules that you can use to communicate the "rules" to the public nor your own employees. So people have to make it up as they go along.

Regarding your hypothetical excuse for my specific case, the TSO superisor knew gel packs were not a dangerous item, "They are allowed for medicine, not infants," is what he said as he pitched the pack.

If TSA did as Persistent Phil asked and published the rules, situations like mine could have been fixed on the spot by referring to the rules. When the rules are some SSI loose-leaf binder of years worth of superceding "reminders", they are effectively unknowable, and you are setting youself up for future mistakes. Adding one more memo won't make the system better.

Rather than attempt to fix the system, TSA seems to revel in its unpredictability and lack of process control as one of its mystical layers of security. There are ways to use randomness to actually improve detection systems, but irregular enforcement of ill-defined secret rules is not one of them.

What I expect will keep me mad long into the future is that TSA is not fixing its systemic problems. TSA seems to be all public-relations marketing fluff, or in other words, Security Theatre. Take the reasoning driving Bob's post: for "marketing" and "consistency" reasons, TSA publishes the wrong limits on liquids, so we'll blog about it. If TSA actually had the rules down somewhere, anyone could just point at them instead of blathering about it.

As for me, I'll probably keep telling my gel-pack story as long as TSA keeps telling people how simple it is to just follow "the rules". What does it take to get TSA to follow its own rules?

If you will never publish the actual rules, you will always get situations like the one that harmed me.

Submitted by Dunstan on

another anonymous TSA apologist dithered:
"That being said, I think it is time to move on beyond this point. If you want to keep being mad, that is your right, but it can't change what happened in the past."
And that being said, how would you really feel if you were a victim of the breast milk fiasco? Studies indicate that breast fed children are more intelligent than bottle fed children. So, is ruining America's future one infant at a time TSA policy?

Submitted by Last Hussar on

Why do Americans use a measure of weight to describe volume, as weight depends on density? Avoirdupois has many units for volume, many of them as difficult to use as the weight sub divisions.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"If I print out a TSA web page that says breastmilk is medicine, and another that says frozen gels are allowed for medical items, can anyone guarantee that some poorly trained TSO supervisor won't confiscate the gel pack?

A TSO supervisor in STL confiscated our gel pack, which led to the spoiling of 13 oz of my wife's breast milk. She cried when we poured it out."

Mt Gel-pack, just what is your goal? You have repeated this story over and over, and you are right. The question I have is what will satisfy you? An apology from TSA? (did you even get one? you should have). A document telling everyone at TSA that breastmilk is medicine, and another that says frozen gels are allowed for medical items and have them sign it and swear to never, ever take it away again? The complete dismantleing of TSA? Or is this an unpardonable sin that you crusade against forever? You've been on this board over and over agin, but have nothing new to bring to the table, unlike Trollkiller or Phil. Just what is the endgame for you?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"If you feel that printing out the webpage for a specific medical item that you must travel with would be beneficial, then I would encourage you to do that. I'm sure TSA officers aren't the only people who have made a mistake once in a while at their job."

Actually, this can help sometimes. I had an incident where I was to have a passenger suuenrder/abandon her liquid when she told me that she needed it for a disability. After asking my supervisor about it, we allowed the liquid through because she had the web-site print out. (I think my sup looked it up, too, but I don't recall) Now I know, and the other people I've seen with similar issues are taken care of much more quickly. TSO-Joe

Submitted by Kevin on

Letstryagain

Do you think we don't see orthopedic shoes daily? We see shoes each and everyday in every single shape you can imagine and when something is out of the ordinary it sticks out. That being said there are TSO's who just don't know what orthopedic shoes look like as you don't know what a real pair of altered shoes look like.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Are you all really that hung up on 3oz or 3.4oz? Oh my. I mean, it says 3oz, so it should be a nice surprise that its actually larger allowed. It is what it is, whats happened has happened, and what will be is to be. You do not have the "right" to fly, just as you don't have the "right" to drive.

Submitted by George on

@Anonymous, February 26, 2009 2:34 PM, in reference to Mr. Gel-pack: You have recounted this story in what seems like every blog post there is. TSA officers are human. This supervisor in question, clearly made a mistake - I think everyone can agree on that. That does not mean that the 40,000+ other TSOs would make that same mistake. It is unfortunate that your wife experienced what was obviously an emotional situation for her and hopefully it will not happen to you or anyone else in the future.

It merits repeating until we have some assurance that the TSA has real and accountable processes in place that provide him and the rest of us with assurance that it indeed "will not happen to you or anyone else in the future." There is currently no such assurance.

You and various TSOs and TSA officials can repeat the obvious truth that the officer and the supervisor made a mistake, and recite all the reasons why it's not supposed to happen. But it does happen. And I can only suspect it happens because the TSA leadership has done nothing to make sure that it doesn't happen, and they perpetuate a culture that equates abuse and hassle with "security." They don't discipline or otherwise discourage TSOs for those abuses. I would even suspect the TSA leadership doesn't see any of this as a problem, except to the extent that victims of abuse insist on publicly complaining about it instead of quietly accepting it as "a necessary sacrifice for national security." To the TSA leadership, the only problem is that the passengers-- who of course are entirely to blame for any difficulties they bring upon themselves at checkpoints-- insist on creating embarassing publicity for the TSA.

I don't have any need for baby milk, but I do need weekly injections of a biotech medication that needs to be kept cold. I know the TSA has specific procedures that, in theory, would allow me to carry my medication in a cooler with gel packs. But because of my fear of encountering a TSO who doesn't follow the procedures, I limit my air travel to trips of a week or less to completely avoid that risk. In addition to Mr. Gel-pack's account, I've read about a TSO who insisted on opening up a sterile feeding tube package. If a similar thing happened to me, I would not only lose the benefit of the medication, but I'd lose thousands of dollars that my insurance would not cover.

I rationally know that if I did travel with my medication, it's most likely that the people at the checkpoint would follow the procedures in a fully professional and respectful fashion, and I'd be on my way with a minimum of difficulty. But in light of my experiences with TSOs inappropriately confiscating my sunscreen and solid deodorant-- neither of which were essential to my health, and both of which I replaced at a modest cost-- the (probably small) risk of an incompetent TSO damaging my essential medication is simply too great, and the consequences just too costly.

So if I ever want a vacation longer than a week, I put the syringes in an ice chest in the trunk of my car and enjoy a great road trip. But because of my fear of TSOs who don't know the procedures (or who don't care about following them because they face no consequences from not following them), there are many places I just can't go. TSA apologists may tell me that this is just a minor, necessary Wartime sacrifice. Maybe they could explain how that does anything to either win the War or make the Homeland secure, since I can't see it at all.

The TSA seems to think it's in their best interests to keep the traveling public fearful and terrified. That seems to be the only thing they can unequivocally claim as a success.

Submitted by Let'sTryAgain on

Anonymous and Kevin must have missed this part of my post:

"They have also gone berserk when they see the altered shoes in the x-ray that I have several times been forced to remove...

Further, Kevin wrote:

"That being said there are TSO's who just don't know what orthopedic shoes look like..."

How many weeks of training do you get?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"But if you start from the premise that limiting liquids is necessary, the means by which TSA enforces those limits have some sound reasoning behind them."

The premise is faulty: Limiting liquids is unnecessary, as you and we and TSA well know. The policy must be abolished.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Do you think we don't see orthopedic shoes daily? We see shoes each and everyday in every single shape you can imagine and when something is out of the ordinary it sticks out. That being said there are TSO's who just don't know what orthopedic shoes look like"

Many thousands of people wear orthopedic shoes. Why would ANY TSO not be trained to know what such shoes look like?

"as you don't know what a real pair of altered shoes look like."

TSA has never found "altered shoes" that could harm an aircraft.

Submitted by George on

@TSO-Joe: I had an incident where I was to have a passenger suuenrder/abandon her liquid when she told me that she needed it for a disability. After asking my supervisor about it, we allowed the liquid through because she had the web-site print out. (I think my sup looked it up, too, but I don't recall) Now I know, and the other people I've seen with similar issues are taken care of much more quickly.

Oh... my.... God!

Here we have a TSO who admits that he nearly caused a passenger to suffer the loss of an "essential" liquid because he (the TSO) didn't know the rules! And if this passenger didn't have the foresight to print out the website, insist on her rights under the rules, and educate the TSO about the rules, she would perhaps have suffered damage to her health. And how many other (less prepared, less assertive) passengers suffered needless damage to their health at the hands of Joe and his poorly-trained co-workers, before this passenger finally taught him (and the rest of them?) the rules?

I do have to give Joe credit for admitting his error, and for listening to the passenger rather than barking "You'll give me that liquid now if you want to fly today!" This is a very clear failure on the part of Joe's superiors to provide adequate training. But this is probably the tip of a very large iceberg peeping out from behind the TSA's black curtain of secrecy. It can only suggest a systemic failure at the TSA that's at the root of the "bad behavior" many of us have seen.

So what is the TSA doing to correct this failure?

Submitted by Bob on

Mr. Gel-pack said... OK, you marketing geniuses, are the web pages and blog pages the authoritative rules that we are supposed to follow? If I print out a TSA web page that says breastmilk is medicine, and another that says frozen gels are allowed for medical items, can anyone guarantee that some poorly trained TSO supervisor won't confiscate the gel pack? A TSO supervisor in STL confiscated our gel pack, which led to the spoiling of 13 oz of my wife's breast milk. She cried when we poured it out. I don't trust your organization to train its people well, since you don't communicate your rules well to either the public or your own workforce. Good luck with the "We are also going to send a message to the workforce as a reminder." February 25, 2009 5:37 PM

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Mr. Gel-pack… I think you might be the marketing genius seeing that I’ve memorized your breast milk incident. Jeesh… It was an unfortunate incident. The first time I read your post; I apologized and immediately contacted the airport in question’s customer support manager.

Your story first came up here.

Our conversation went like this:

Bob Said: September 5, 2008 8:36 PM As a new father that has watched his wife nurse both children, I am sincerely sorry that this happened to your wife. Have you contacted the airport through Got Feedback? I spoke with the Customer Support Manager and was told that they are looking into the incident. If you haven’t contacted them with your info, please do so.

Mr. Gel-pack Said: September 6, 2008 5:36 PM Thanks for the sympathy. I did contact do the "got feedback?" thing with my flight, security lane, and time, but not with my name or email. Since the milk is gone, there isn't a dang thing TSA can do to make us whole. The best I can hope for is that you-all do a better job of training your people to your ill-defined and effectively secret rules. I don't have much hope about that.

Bob Said: September 7, 2008 1:49 AM That’s one of the purposes of Got Feedback. The airport will look into the incident and retrain the individual involved. I wouldn’t be surprised if an airport wide briefing goes out to the Officers at that airport.

So let’s see, I apologized, contacted the airport, and made you aware of Got Feedback. If you would have left your contact information on the Got Feedback form, the customer support manager could have followed up with you to let you know what steps were taken. But, you would just rather assume that nothing happened and continue to post your story over and over and over.

Once again, the Supervisor was wrong and this was a very unfortunate incident, but please let it go. Move on…

Bob
EoS Blog Team

Submitted by Bob on

Anonymous said... If, as you claim, the official limit is 3.4, when will TSA's signage be adjusted to reflect this? What steps are being taken to ensure that every TSO knows that the limit is 3.4, not 3? What recourse does a citizen have against a TSO who insists on enforcing an incorrect 3 oz limit? February 25, 2009 5:38 PM
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1)Signage will not be changed, only future references on the blog, web content, and the contact center’s response. Changes have already started on the web content and the contact center’s response is now current.

2)TSOs should already know this, however, it is being discussed in the nation wide shift brief and I’ve posted it on my internal TSA blog.

3)Ask for a supervisor or manager. Or, go to our Got Feedback page> and speak with the customer support manager from that airport.
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MSC said... I'm glad to see the new administration's intelligence has begun to filter down to the TSA :-)February 25, 2009 8:07 PM
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Nothing to do with the new administration, but thanks…
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Anonymous said... If you mean conversion charts for products sold by weight, that would imply knowing the density of all different brands of toothpaste....February 26, 2009 3:45 AM
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Ding, Ding, Ding!
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jhess56 said... Perhaps if it hasn't already been, this info could be posted on the various airline websites. February 26, 200910:04 AM
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I’ll run the idea up the ladder. Thanks!
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Gussie Fink-Nottle said... Now if only someone in TSA could explain why 3.4 ounces of shampoo is perfectly safe, but 4 ounces is a problem...or why two 3.4 ounce tubes of toothpaste can't blow up an airplane but one 6.8 ounce tube can...or what peculiar quality of airports makes it impossible for multiple people to collude to each bring a little bit of Magic Exploding Liquid through (in little 3.4 ounce bottles) and then combine them, then we'd really be getting somewhere! February 26, 2009 2:41 PM
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Gussie – Read Kip’s interview with Jon Stokes from Ars Technica> on liquids. Click HERE to read the interview.
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Dunstan said... Studies indicate that breast fed children are more intelligent than bottle fed children. So, is ruining America's future one infant at a time TSA policy? February 26, 2009 5:24 PM
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Wow….

Bob
EoS Blog Team

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