Lawmakers back ban on liquids on airliners

King's spokesman, Chad Scarborough, said it "might be necessary to make the ban permanent until we can develop the technology to catch this stuff," referring to potentially explosive liquids that right now can't be detected easily at checkpoints.

"Right now, I don't know what alternatives we have," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House aviation subcommittee. "Until we can put other [security] measures in place, I think we're sort of stuck with it."

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said last month that it was studying whether it can safely allow passengers to carry small amounts of liquids on airliners.

TSA chief Kip Hawley said encouraging passengers to use carry-on bags could ease the strain on luggage-bomb detectors caused since the Aug. 10 liquid ban increased the amount of checked luggage.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recently said that leaving the ban in place might keep security lines moving faster than a potentially confusing policy allowing small quantities of liquids.

"It might be that we'll conclude that any changes will only make it more inefficient and create more confusion, and we're better off sticking with what we have," said Chertoff, whose department oversees the TSA.

The National Business Travel Association has told Homeland Security officials about the frustrations of business travelers who must check luggage even for short trips.

Even so, association spokesman Caleb Tiller said, "We're not saying, take these bans out, because the most important thing is to manage security."

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate terrorism subcommittee, said most travelers "are understanding about why it's necessary to endure the inconvenience."

Airline passengers may carry small amounts of liquid prescription medicines, baby formula and eye-care products. The rules took effect Aug. 10 after British authorities said they foiled a plot to smuggle bomb components, including liquids, onto U.S.-bound airliners.

For airports, the ban "has not been a problem," said Charles Chambers, head of security for the Airports Council International. Sales at airport shops are up in the last month because travelers are arriving at airports earlier and have more time to spend in concourses, Chambers said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate homeland security committee, said she hopes the TSA "will be able to ease the restrictions without compromising security." The long-term solution, Collins said, is developing better technologies.

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