Monday, August 14, 2006

Pack Your Patience - Leave the Liquids at Home

Last Thursday morning, my husband and I headed to Boston's Logan Airport for a short trip to Las Vegas. What we encountered at the airport was unexpected and somewhat surreal. We arrived at the airport at 6 am for a 7:40 am flight. We would normally arrive only an hour prior to flight departure as we never check bags and have status on American Airlines that allows us to bypass the long security lines and get through security relatively quickly. On Thursday, we were flying America West, as they run the only non-stop flights from Boston to Las Vegas. As a result, we added time in our schedule for longer check-in lines and longer security lines. By now, everyone knows what happened in London overnight last Wednesday. At 6 am on Thursday, we were about to find out.

The security line was longer than we had ever previously encountered. When we checked in, the ticket agent warned us that no liquids, creams or gels would be allowed in carry-on baggage as a result of the events that took place in London overnight. If we wanted to transport liquids, creams or gels, we would have to check our bag. As I believe that a checked bag is almost as good as a lost bag, we decided to chuck the liquids, creams and gels rather than check a bag. We could replace whatever we needed on the other side. As we had uncharacteristically not tuned in to the news prior to leaving our house at 5:30 am, we were unprepared and were hungry for information about what exactly had transpired overnight. We got in the long security line and as my husband held our place and used his Blackberry to find the latest news, I headed over to the trash can with one of our bags and started throwing out every liquid or gel that we had in it.

Luckily, I had our toiletries consolidated in one of the bags and the offending items were very easy to locate. Several other people were doing exactly the same thing and we had a kind of "parting ceremony" with our stuff. Everyone seemed to be very good-natured about the entire situation. It was a little after six in the morning and we're standing around a garbage can at Logan Airport tossing out things that we find generally innocuous. You don't realize how many liquids and gels you lug around until you're forced to toss them out. I personally tossed the following items: Kiehl's Facial Fuel, Shaving Cream, Mouthwash, Toothpaste, Hairspray, Contact Lens drops, Eye drops, Pevonia Moisturizer and Eye Cream, Caudalie Grape Seed Water and Facial Cleanser, Sunscreen, Chanel Perfume, Lip Gloss and Lip Stick. The others around me were tossing similar items. Other items that ended up in the garbage included bottles of champagne and wine, Pepto-Bismol, Liquid Makeup, Mascara, After Shave... the garbage cans were filling up quickly.

If the airline security situation wasn't so serious, a lot of those people at the airport would have been pretty unhappy. We were tossing hundreds of dollars of perfectly good stuff into the garbage and were waiting in what seemed to be an endless security line. All of the flights were obviously delayed and everyone would be arriving late to their destinations. The passengers at the airport that morning with us all seemed to understand the situation and were compliant. We would do whatever the TSA wanted us to do to ensure the safety of our flights that day. They could hand inspect every piece of carry-on baggage (which they practically did at each boarding gate). They could have made us check all of our baggage, as was the case in the UK. Anything for safety's sake. You can replace anything that you take with you on an airplane besides your life and it seemed that most folks at the airport that day were fully aware of that fact.

I actually view our experience at the airport on Thursday as a positive one. Through the line waiting and liquid/gel purging the passengers that we encountered were patient and good natured. The TSA and the airline personnel were professional and did pretty well by us under the circumstances. There wasn't an empty seat on our flight by the time it left the gate a little over an hour behind schedule - so one can assume that the airline didn't leave any of the passengers behind. There were no commercial aviation fatalities that day in our country. The American flying public and the airlines adapted as well as could be expected to the situation. By Sunday, when we returned from Las Vegas to Boston, the security line in the Las Vegas airport was shorter than the line for Burger King.

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