Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Like water for checked baggage

So today was my first time flying after the newly imposed TSA rules regarding no carriage of liquids, gels, etc. on airplanes.  I curb-checked my bag at DIA for $2, which saved me from having to go up on level from where I parked and back down one level to security.  It was interesting watching people in the security line that were removing things from their bags and either throwing them away or putting them in clear, plastic bags to check (wouldn’t you just check the whole bag at that point?) — I kept some contact lens eyedrops in my backpack, which earned me a secondary search of my bag.

On the other side of security all of the stores are still selling liquid and gel products (I wonder if those items go through special screening) and, while there were 2 TSA people at the gate doing random bag checks, there was nothing beyond that an announcement from the gate agent stating that liquids could not be brought on board.  What I did notice was a remarkable lack of carry-on luggage — those of us business travelers that would otherwise be carrying a rolling suitcase and computer bag were only carrying computer bags.  The race to get on the plane was as stupid as ever, which was interesting when the vast majority of the people boarding had only one bag that would easily fit under the seat in front of them. 

One very interesting thing that I noticed was that the flight attendants seemed to not be bound by the same restrictions — I saw one flight attendant with a cooler bag and all of the flight attendants that I saw had rolling bags that I assume also contained toiletries.  I wonder what kind of vetting process allows the flight attendants to be exempt from the rules; surely there are some business travelers that log as many air miles in a year as some flight attendants — I would be happy to go through the same vetting process in order to carry-on my toiletries and a bottle of water.

There’s a big opportunity right now for a company that wants to provide bottled water to airplane passengers.  Certainly with the decrease in carry-on luggage there is an abundance of bin space that could easily accommodate a few cases of bottled water.  Seems like a big opportunity for someone like Dasani or Aquafina or Arrowhead to get some goodwill points with a captive audience at very little cost relative to trying to traditionally advertise to the same group of people.

When I arrived in LAX it took me 45 minutes to retrieve my luggage — I had to get from LAX to Hollywood and had I been able to carry on my bag instead of check it, I would have been in Hollywood by the time my luggage finally shot down the carousel.  It seems to me that if the TSA is going to continue to regulate specific items to the point that a traveler has no choice but to check what would have been carry-on luggage, then the TSA and/or FAA needs to impose strict performance standards on airlines and airports regarding the rapidity of checked baggage service.

Does this mean that I will travel less?  Probably not yet, though it does make it exceedingly more inconvenient, especially for 2–3 day trips.


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