Thursday, August 09, 2007

Allowable Airline Carryons Still Hit and Miss

When it comes to allowable airline carryons, the saga continues. 
Update December 28, 2009

Latest TSA Rules - note that wording changed re: no restroom visits last hour of flight time to now be 'at discretion of crew'.
Last year, all the security changes in airline security allowed carryons had to be covered in several blog entries, (also here) including one about my mother's trip within Canada. This week, she got back from her annual trip west. She took the same airline as last year, to the same destination, but amended her carryon liquids according to current guidelines.

She placed her toiletries in a clear ziploc bag, though she added her own personal touch: Inside the large ziploc, she added three smaller non-ziploc, though perfectly clear plastic bags. In one, her dental items; in another, her hair items -- travel size shampoo, conditioner, etc. from the drugstore; and the third contained her makeup items.

Her lunch, she kept cold with a small, blue freezer gel pack. She disposed of the water bottle she brought from home to tide her over until she could buy a new one after passing security.

My mom travels light -- there wasn't much. When leaving Toronto Pearson (YYZ), security looked at her large ziploc bag with the three smaller clear bags within. They did not open it, nor did they comment. The contents were obvious. Her frozen gel pack likewise escaped comment, and off she went to Kamloops, B.C. (YKA).

After several weeks, she headed back to the small Kamloops airport for her flight home. Well, for some reason, security gave her a hard time. Not sure if the staff (one officer in particular, the same one who gave me a hard time a year ago ) are a tad overzealous, or rigidly by-the-book conscientious, or just general twits.

Her frozen solid gel pack to keep her lunch cold -- confiscated.
Her ziploc bag with toiletries -- the security lady unzipped it, emptied out the three smaller, non-ziploc bags, then repacked the contents of each in their very own smaller ziploc bags. When mom pointed out that Toronto staff had allowed these carryons as is, the Kamloops staff replied," We don't care what they do in Toronto. This is how we do it here."

All this wonderfulness in the security check for a fully booked flight on a very small plane.

My mother had something new for her return trip, something that hadn't been with her for her flight from Toronto: A small jar, the lid held fast with tape, the contents something shredded, and off white in colour.

Mom kept her mouth shut as the security person silently picked up the jar, held it to the light, jiggled the contents. She never asked mom what it was, but appeared to be checking for the amount of liquid it might contain. (Last year, Winnipeg security confiscated the orange she brought for a snack.)

The small jar contained fresh, ground horseradish, from my brother's garden. Mom said to me later, "For all the guard knew, it could have been some sort of explosive, and I almost said as much when she put the jar back in my bag. But I kept my mouth shut. I'd had enough trouble"

But the staff was not done with her yet. As she moved away from security, another guard, who had been looking on, told her there was no more room for backpacks in the cabin, and she would have to check it after all. Ergo, this whole exercise was moot.

So she handed over her backpack, making sure they would get it to her in time to make a tight plane change in Calgary. But no -- she couldn't board yet! Not after the second lady looked at her boarding pass and noticed mom had been given a window seat in an exit row.

"Are you able to open the door in an emergency?" she asked my octenagarian, very fit mom.

"Yes," said mom. "I've sat in that seat before."

"But are you sure you could open the door if you had to?"

"Yes," said mom. "If I had to, I could fly the plane!"

Amid laughter from the other passengers who had all been listening, mom finally got to board the plane.

Now, I consider current security regulations a tad paranoid, a bit of a red herring and generally ineffectual. But what annoys me more is, after jumping through all the allowable carryon hoops, there's no consistent application or enforcement, at least not in Canada, on domestic flights. I can only imagine the carry on hassles on international flights, or with different airlines.

Passenger inconvenience coupled with ever increasing fares and security surcharges are not at all conducive to tourism. Knee jerk regulations in the guise of safety do none of us any favours, except maybe the vendors of water and toiletries.

See currrent regulations in Canada and previous blog entries.

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