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Flying without liquid

Ashley Milne-Tyte Aug 14, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Even with the changes that were announced yesterday, that part of the airport on the other side of the metal detectors is going to be a different place for quite a while to come. Newsstands are going to have to figure out what to do with all that extra bottled water. Never mind all the booze sitting on the shelves at the duty-free stores. Most of that stuff we can probably do without anyway. But is anybody trying to make it easier for the liquid-challenged flier? Ashley Milne-Tyte has that story.

ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: Word of the alleged terrorist plot was only just making the rounds last Thursday morning when this woman traveling through the Raleigh-Durham airport got a call from her family:

WOMAN: All they did was call me and tell me not to pack my hair gel.

So, given there are no liquid-filled tubes, bottles or jars allowed beyond the final security check, can we expect the airlines to keep us happy some other way? Richard Gritta is a professor of finance and transportation at the University of Portland.

RICHARD GRITTA: They could put mouthwash and toothpaste in the heads on the plane. The big problem would be storing enough water, especially on international flights, to be able to handle the demand.

But the Air Transport Association says so far passengers haven’t indicated a thirst for more in-flight water. As for toiletries, there’s no plan to give them away or sell them. Joe Brancatelli is a frequent flier who runs joesentme., a website for business travelers. He says customers like him will get fed up fast. And if airlines don’t meet their needs, someone else will.

JOE BRANCATELLI: As often is the case in travel, hotels make up for the shortfall of airlines. They may begin to sell you the things you can’t take aboard with you. You know, you’ll be able to order off a toiletries list in your hotel room. You know, “OK, send up a tube or Colgate, or your favorite tube of Crest.”

In fact, Starwood Hotels is already providing hairspray, deodorant and hair gel for ungroomed arrivals. Right now it’s not charging. Futurist Watts Wacker is another big believer that everyone except the airlines will innovate. He says now is a great opportunity for shipping companies to screen and ship travelers’ toiletries that they’ll need at the other enda€¦

WATTS WACKER: And it would literally just be waiting for them as they got off the plane, right at the door of the plane, to pick up like you were picking up a bottle of water on the table at a marathon if you were a runner.

Same with booze. The publisher of Airport Revenue News says that some duty-free shops are already shipping purchases made at the airport. And passengers may turn out to be more adaptive than the airlines are. Airport store reps say passengers are continuing to buy drinks; they’re just downing them before they get on the plane.

But will some people be put off traveling entirely? Richard Gritta of the University of Portland:

GRITTA: Domestically, there are a lot of short-haul routes that, of course, will become very subject to train or buses or people driving.

He says continuing security restrictions could turn some businesspeople onto videoconferencing. And it’s the perfect time for air taxis and private jets to brush off their credentials.

In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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