Tips on Flight Safety Rules, Airport Security

What to expect from flight safety rules and airport security in the U.S.

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on July 02, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Flight safety and airport security are once again in the headlines after two men crashed an SUV loaded with gas cylinders into Scotland's Glasgow International Airport.

The web site of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) states that "there is nothing to suggest attacks in the U.K. indicate an [impending] attack in the U.S. However, many airports and mass transit systems in the United States are increasing their security presence as a precaution."

The TSA notes that travelers may see an increased use of bomb-sniffing dogs, increased presence of law enforcement and/or TSA security staff in public areas, and random security checks on all vehicles.

The TSA asks travelers to be aware of their surroundings and to notify a security or law enforcement officer if they see anything suspicious.

The TSA's flight safety rules about bringing liquids on board planes remain in effect.

"Travelers may now carry through security checkpoints travel-sized toiletries (3 ounces or less) that fit comfortably in one quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag," states the TSA's web site on flight safety.

At the security checkpoint, "travelers will be asked to remove the zip-top bag of liquids and place it in a bin or on the conveyor belt," the TSA notes.

"In addition, larger amounts of prescription liquid medications, baby formula, and diabetic glucose treatments must be declared at the checkpoint for additional screening," states the TSA.

But don't try to go through an airport security checkpoint with a large cup of coffee or a big bottle of water. Those items aren't allowed through security but can be bought at airport shops near your departure gate.

"After clearing security, travelers can now bring beverages and other items purchased in the secure boarding area on-board aircraft," states the TSA.

According to the TSA,'s flight safety rules, items currently permitted in carry-on bags include:

  • Baby formula and breast milk if a baby or small child is traveling
  • Asthma inhalers
  • All prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including KY jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes
  • Liquids including water, juice, or liquid nutrition or gels for passengers with a disability or medical condition
  • Life-support and life-sustaining liquids such as bone marrow, blood products, and transplant organs
  • Items used to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons such as mastectomy products, prosthetic breasts, bras or shells containing gels, saline solution, or other liquids
  • Gels or frozen liquids needed to cool disability or medically related items used by persons with disabilities or medical conditions.

Passengers can carry as much of those items as they want in their checked baggage. But if the medically necessary items exceed 3 ounces or are not contained in a one-quart, zip-top plastic bag, passengers must present those items for inspection at the security checkpoint.

"All disability-related equipment, aids, and devices continue to be allowed through security checkpoints once cleared through screening," states the TSA.

8 Flight Safety Tips for Travelers

1. Cut the clutter.

"The secret to getting through security smoothly is to de-clutter your carry-on bag," states the TSA's web site. "This lets our Transportation Security Officers get a clear, uncomplicated X-ray image of your carry-on."

2. Think about what you need during the flight.

When you pack your carry-on items, "limit quantities to what is needed for the duration of the flight," the TSA recommends. Everything else can go in your checked bags.

3. When possible, keep packing liquids in a checked bag.

"You will get through security faster," states the TSA.

4. Carrying on medicine? Check your documentation.

The TSA says it recommends but doesn't require that passengers "bring along any supporting documentation (ID cards, letter from doctor, etc.) regarding their medication needs."

The TSA also recommends, but no longer requires, that the label on prescription medications match the passenger's boarding bass.

If those names don't match, be prepared to explain why to security officers.

5. Be ready to take off your shoes.

Passengers will still be asked to take off their shoes at the security checkpoint.

"However, persons with disabilities, medical conditions, and prosthetic devices do not have to remove their shoes," states the TSA.

"Those who keep their shoes on will be subjected to additional screening that includes a visual/physical and explosive trace detection sampling of their footwear while the footwear remains on their feet," states the TSA.

6. Flight crew should still be serving beverages on board.

"There are still in-flight beverages," TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser tells WebMD.

7. Flying to the U.S. from overseas? Check rules in the departure country.

The TSA's rules apply to all flights inside the U.S. and overseas flights departing from U.S. airports.

If you're flying into the U.S. from another country, the TSA recommends that you check the flight rules for your departure country.

8. Check the TSA's web site for updates.

Security rules can change at any time, though the TSA says it is "unlikely that additional changes in the liquid, aerosol and gel policy will be made in the near future."

Any changes should be posted on the TSA's web site:

WebMD Feature


SOURCES: Associated Press. U.S. Transportation Security Administration: "Traveler Alert: U.S. Response to Glasgow Airport Incident." "U.S. Transportation Security Administration: "News & Happenings: Agency Adjusts Liquid Ban, Aviation Threat Remains High." U.S. Transportation Security Administration: "Travelers With Disabilities and Medical Conditions." Darrin Kayser, spokesman, U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

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