I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at San Francisco International for my flight back to the United Kingdom today. Watching the TV, it looked like I’d be carrying nothing but my passport and my wallet in a plastic bag and be thankful I didn’t have to fly naked as well. Kind of like this Matt cartoon on the front page of the Daily Telegraph today:
– SORRY, THEY’VE PULLED THE CARTOON NOW –
I’d heard from Jennifer Slegg that Dave Naylor found himself doing the plastic bag routine when he went back to the UK on United with a stopover in Chicago. I’m on Virgin, so I checked out the advice on the Virgin site:
Flights Departing From US Airports
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented a series of security measures. Although the TSA is not restricting the carriage of hand luggage, all items are being hand searched at the departure gate and this is causing significant delays. It is therefore strongly recommended that you carry only the most essential items to speed up the security process and minimise flight delays.
The TSA have advised that the following measures are to take place with immediate effect:
No liquids or gels are allowed past the airport security checkpoint and they are not allowed to be carried either in hand luggage or on your person, except:
- Baby formula, breast milk, or juice if a baby or small child is travelling
- Prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket
- Insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines
Duty free can be purchased (including liquid items) from stores after the security checkpoints, but these will be delivered to passengers when boarding the aircraft. Any passengers with onward connections from the UK must be aware that they will not be allowed ANY liquids in their hand luggage so should place in their hold luggage on arrival in the UK.
Virgin Atlantic advises its customers to ensure that only items complying with these requirements are carried on board aircraft. All other items must be placed in checked baggage or left behind.
It sounded like there was no issue with taking laptops, a regular bag, my Nintendo DS (yes, I bought another one after no luck with how much British Airways lost property sucks) and so on. To be sure, I went to the TSA web site’s page on the new guidance. And it pretty much said the same — no problems with laptops.
Of course, the TSA also has told me things in the past like that I don’t need to take my shoes off, only to find that when you get to security, you do. So I wasn’t trusting the advice and put my laptop bag into my luggage.
When I arrived at SFO, I expected mania. Crowds, people lying everywhere, plastic bags flying through the air. Nothing like that. The international terminal was incredibly calm. There was no significant line to go through security. And I was told there was no problem taking my laptop, my cell phone and other things on the plane. As long as they weren’t liquid or gel, I was OK.
Of course, my 5pm flight was pushed back to 9pm. Still, with my laptop, that meant plenty of time to catch up on email. And the flight might get pushed back further, but Virgin has a nice lounge at SFO. There are a far worse places to hang out.
FYI, Virgin said that coming out of Heathrow, all the restrictions you’re seeing on TV are in place. And that makes you think again, as usual, why different airports are allowed to have such different security requirements.