Transportation security officials say it appears some airline passengers still aren't clear about what it is they can, and cannot take on a plane. The list of items seized at the nation's airports over the Thanksgiving weekend includes thousands of knives, a half dozen guns and a brick.
Passengers either aren't getting the message or they're choosing to ignore it. But either way, airport officials say screeners are doing a seamless job at catching prohibited items before they do make it on board. As one holiday weekend passes without many bumps in the road, Lubbock airport officials are hoping the Christmas rush is even more smooth.
This is the first holiday travel season since an all-federal work force took over airport screening. So far so good says TSA Federal Security Director Jim Holden. "We didn't have a waiting period in line that was more than 5 minutes at any particular time during the holiday rush," says Holden.
So now, with one holiday rush down and one more to go, Holden, who is the Security Director for Lubbock, Amarillo and Midland, says it's important to again highlight the list of items that are prohibited for carryon.
First, don't wrap gifts until you get there. "If the screeners happen to see something unusual, we're in a position where we'll have to unwrap it. We don't want to do that," says Holden. Also remember, no guns, no knives, boxcutters, ice picks, scissors or any sharp objects and no tools. "Whether it's a simple screwdriver or a more obvious tool like this hammer. I mean, it should be real obvious that bludgeoning objects could cause serious problems," says Holden.
Things that aren't as obvious, but still aren't allowed include: pepper spray, toy guns and too much of the same thing, especially if it's flammable. "This is prohibited, not because it's hairspray, but because it exceeds the amount that can be carried in one container," says Holden. Same goes for cigarette lighters, one is ok, any more than one and you'll have to surrender them.
What is perhaps the biggest security change at airports yet, is scheduled for arrival sometime in the next two to three weeks at Lubbock International. Congress has mandated Explosives Detection Systems for 100% of checked baggage. "That screening takes place immediately in front of the ticket counter. You'll have to go through that before the ticket counter and then you'll go through screening again when you get to the secured area," says LIA Director of Aviation Mark Earle.
Although there have been many behind the scenes changes with screening and intelligence, Explosives Detection Systems will be the most noticeable change to passengers. The machines will sit right in the lobby. Most bags should pass right through, but some will trigger the system and will be hand checked. "It's gonna be interesting to see how passengers react, because it's a totally different experience for them," says Earle.
That system should be in place in Lubbock within the next three weeks. This is an interim solution to Congress' mandate. In the long run, most airports will be equipped with larger explosives detection equipment behind the ticket counters.