So, wait, you can buy liquids in the sterile area...

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Here's (some of) TSA's current policy.
Beverages purchased in the sterile area must be consumed before boarding because they will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.

It's unclear what threats this is intended to address. Either you believe that it's possible to get contraband into the sterile area or you don't. If the sterile area isn't actually sterile, then you need to screen people again between the sterile area and the aircraft, because terrorists aren't exactly likely to obey your policy about discarding their liquid explosives.

On the other hand, if you believe that the sterile area is sterile, then it's hard to see what purpose is served by forbidding people from bringing liquids brought there onto the plane. It's arguable that you'd like to limit the number of liquids on the plane in order to make terrorists who have brought their own liquids on the plane conspicuous. But since it's fairly straightforward to keep your liquids in your bag and then mix them in the lavatory, I'm skeptical that this adds a lot of value.

4 Comments

Starbucks; the drug-of-choice for many pilots.


More to the point, this actually does help, because it relieves flight attendants from having to argue. Liquids they didn't provide are out. If they see one, they act the same way every time. If they see one when buying them is permitted, they have two choices: behave as if the liquid was successfully smuggled through screening and behave as if the liquid was purchased in the sterile area. The default will quickly become "behave as if the liquid was purchased in the sterile area", so they will become numb to the behavior of passengers and liquids. That's not what the policy is designed to promote.


Whether the policy ought to promote fear is a different question, but given that it does, this is in line with the policy.

But again, the only liquids that flight attendants are going to see are liquids that ordinary passengers have. Terrorists (if there are any) will hide their liquids and then mix/explode them in the lav.

Probably true. My only reason to believe otherwise is that the original reports stated that there were plans to use bottles that could be openly displayed pre-mixing. Some of that might have been so they could use less refined materials. I assume the calculus of all of that has changed now.

When I flew on Sunday, they were pulling people out of the boarding queue for "random" carry-on checks. I ASSume this would act as something of a control against liquids obtained in the sterile zone from making it onto the plane. So, they are doing exactly what you say they'd need to: screening people again before they get on the plane.

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