With the busy holiday travel season now upon us, it’s important to remember that there are items you should take care not to bring with you in your carryon luggage when you fly. The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, regularly updates its website and also maintains various Twitter accounts. You can refer to both for the latest security requirements and recommendations when flying.
TSA classifies certain items as prohibited, and it’s especially important never to bring them with you when you go through an agency airport security checkpoint. If certain prohibited items such as guns are found on you or in your carryon luggage -- and they will be, if you happen to be carrying them -- TSA agents have a range of actions available to them that they can take, up to and including a very thorough “enhanced security screening” and even police, arrest, and civil and criminal penalties and fines.
With the above in mind, let’s look at several TSA prohibited items that are never allowed in your carryon luggage and in the cabin of acommercial airliner:
Transportation Security Administration airport screeners annually seize many guns. It’s mostly the case, when TSA screeners do find one, that the traveler had simply forgotten to remove the firearm from their carryon or rollaboard before they headed to the airport or when they checked their other luggage in for stowage in their plane’s cargo compartment.
Never forget: TSA will take a very dim view should they find a firearm, either on you or in your carryon luggage, and forgetfulness won’t be accepted as an excuse. Also, depending on the situation, you could face criminal or civil penalties, including very high monetary fines and even imprisonment in egregious instances.
You can bring firearms with you as part of your checked luggage. Your gun must be unloaded and in a locked hard-sided container and declared to your airline at check-in. Bullets, magazines, and clips also fall into the same prohibited item status as firearms, and they too must be securely carried in your checked luggage and declared to your airline.
Full-size Hygiene Products
Always remember TSA’s “3-1-1 Rule” when it comes to bringing along hygiene products such as mouthwash, shampoo, toothpaste, hand lotions and the like. For the most part, you’re allowed to bring liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carryon luggage as long as they’re travel-size. However, each container is limited to 3.4 ounces or less, and all such hygiene products have to fit within a single quart-size resealable bag. Any full-size bottles in your carryon luggage will likely be flagged at your security screening and you could end up having to throw them out in order to continue with the screening process.
Air travelers can bring their own alcohol onboard a flight, but there are several restrictions to take note of. For one, alcoholic beverages having more than 24% but not more 70% alcohol by volume are limited in your checked luggage to not more than 1.3 gallons (five liters) per passenger. They must also be in unopened retail packaging. You’re also allowed to bring miniature bottles of alcohol – such as the ones you might find in your hotel’s mini-bar – in your carryon luggage, but they must be able to fit comfortably in a single quart-sized bag.
It's important to note here that while you can bring along those miniature bottles, you’re not allowed to consume them while flying. Only flight attendants are authorized to serve alcohol on a flight. Plus, the fines levied if you break this rule can be very high. In the recent past, the Federal Aviation Administration has fined a few passengers more than $1 million for bringing their own alcohol and then getting drunk and ignoring flight attendants’ instructions. That agency is definitely not amused by inebriated passengers’ onboard antics these days, it seems.
There’s a good reason for why TSA doesn’t allow fertilizers– such as those used for houseplants and food crops – in either carryon or checked luggage. Many fertilizers are flammable, and some are highly so – such as with ammonium nitrate (AN). You can bring along plants and planting seeds, but any plants must be able to fit in an overhead luggage bin or beneath your seat.
As we noted earlier, it’s always smart to check with TSA’s website before flying to learn just what you can and cannot take with you when you fly. Doing so could help prevent you from being held up at an agency airport security checkpoint while TSA screeners determine whether or not you’re carrying any prohibited items, and then what to do about both them and you.
Kelly Hoggan, Founder and CEO of H4 Solutions, previously served as assistant administrator for operations at the Transportation Security Administration. In that role, he was responsible for aircraft and checkpoint security operations at the nation's 450-plus commercial airports.