I've noticed several news reports lately (like here, here and here) about the TSA's expected easement of liquid restrictions by 2009. I spoke with my TSA source, Ann Davis, who said the removal of the liquid ban was possible but not definite.
"We've commented in the past that new technology may be available to potentially allieviate the liquid ban, but it's not really in the plans. It's not imminent or in the works to do so at this time," Davis said.
The reports all started from comments made by Kip Hawley, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. Hawley wrote a lengthy blog entry on the TSA's Web site about the technology being deployed in airports around the country. In it, he outlined a time line about liquid ban changes, including removing size restrictions on liquids (hurray for no more 3.4oz shampoo bottles!). Here's a little of what he wrote:
We are deploying the best technology and training as fast as we can get it. The goal is to remove all the restrictions on liquids when we have automated systems that can accurately separate threat from non-threat liquids. Hereâ€™s the plan:
Now: We are pretty close to having a network of AT-X-Ray deployed so that nearly 70% of daily passengers will be using major airports with AT. TSA is getting the hardware installed so that when the software is ready in the next year or so, all we have to do is a software upgrade. We will be testing software versions in the coming months.
Fall-2009: Size restriction removed, but all liquids will have to be placed in a separate bin. AT X-Ray software will be advanced enough to tell the difference between threat and non-threat but not yet proven to tell the difference when it is hidden in a bag.
End of 2010: No restrictions. AT X-Ray will have upgraded software that is proven to detect threat liquids in any configuration and is deployed in enough places so that TSA can change the rules to meet one uniform standard for the country.
Well, we can hope at least.