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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 21, 2006

No free booties at airports

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Columnist

Q. I saw in your newspaper a picture at O'Hare Airport in Chicago where passengers were getting disposable socks so they won't have to walk barefoot through the security checkpoint when they take off their shoes. Will the airports in Hawai'i be doing that? If not, why?

A. Our Hawai'i airports do not offer the free booties. The Chicago airport system last month decided to provide free foot covers to passengers traveling through O'Hare and Midway airports after the federal Transportation Security Administration's new requirements that all shoes be removed.

The Chicago airport authority is self-supporting, meaning it uses no state or local tax dollars to operate, so it can add amenities as it sees fit. Officials there believed it would help travelers who didn't want to walk barefoot through the checkpoint.

The transparent, nonskid foot covers they use in Chicago are similar to those used in hospitals. Honolulu TSA customer support manager Allen Willey said there are no plans for the federal agency to provide booties.

State Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa said state officials currently have no plan to provide disposable booties at Hawai'i airports, either. Ishikawa said shoes have been screened at Hawai'i airports since 2003 and "it's never been an issue."

Ishikawa said the state would be concerned that travelers would have wait in line longer if booties were distributed. "Our goal is to keep the checkpoint line wait times to about 10 minutes per person, if not less." In the months after Sept. 11, that soared to as much as 90 minutes.

Ishikawa said time is a key focus since the airports are the first and last impression most visitors have of Hawai'i.

Q. I read about food restrictions on planes, and I'm still confused. Can I take my lunch on the plane?

A. TSA officials say people can take most foods to eat on the airplane. However, they can't take liquids, gels and aerosols, so no coffee or water, yogurt or pudding or spray cheese, etc. You can check for the latest updates on the agency Web site at www.tsa.gov or call a toll-free number (866) 289-9673.