Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Airport screeners offer tips on packing

 •  Holiday travelers advisory

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

The omiyage tradition is safe.

Taking food to other islands or the Mainland is still OK, but please don't put it in your checked baggage, airport security officials said yesterday.

When the new Transportation Security Administration starts screening all checked luggage at Honolulu International Airport on Dec. 31, passengers should keep sushi, stone cookies and other goodies in their carry-on bags, said Stanford Miyamoto, deputy director of federal security at the airport.

Government officials warned last week that some foods might set off alarms in bomb-detection machines and cause delays for all passengers. Chocolate, cheese and pineapple are among the foods whose chemical composition could be mistaken for explosives, officials said.

When the screening machines detect such material, the baggage will be hand-searched by a screener, slowing the loading process.

"Our suggestion is that people not pack food or beverages in their checked luggage," Miyamoto said. "It's not a rule, but it will make things easier for everyone if there aren't additional delays."

The TSA also recommends that passengers do not lock their checked baggage, Miyamoto said.

If anything in a checked bag sets off an alarm on one of the explosives detection machines, and the bag owner is not present, screeners will break a lock to look inside, Miyamoto said.

The baggage screening process is being phased in at some airport areas, and will be fully operational by Dec. 31. Passengers will have to stand in at least two screening lines — one for checked baggage and one for hand-carried bags. A third screening conducted at airport gates is being scaled back, federal officials said.

The TSA offered other recommendations for checked baggage:

  • Avoid overpacking, so articles don't spill out if your bag is opened for inspection. It's better to take two loosely packed bags then one stuffed suitcase, if allowed.
  • Put your toothbrush, razor and other personal items in a plastic bag so a screener does not have to touch them.
  • Hand-carry film onto a plane. The checked-baggage screening equipment could ruin it.
  • Don't pack books or documents on top of each other; spread them out. If such material is too dense, it could set off an alarm.