July 23, 2018

Over the past decade, travelers have faced a growing number of restrictions on items that can be carried onto a flight when they travel, both domestically and internationally. The US Transportation Security Authority (TSA) has implemented most of these measures to stay ahead of threats to air travelers or in response to thwarted attacks.

In September 2006, the TSA began restricting containers of gels, liquids, and aerosols to 3.3 ounces (30 mL) in carry-on bags after a bomb plot on a trans-Atlantic flight was foiled. In 2010, full-body scanners were implemented after a bomber tried to detonate an improvised explosive device in his underwear in 2009. More recently, the TSA began requiring travelers remove all electronics larger than cell phones from carry-on bags for screening after intelligence revealed terrorists were trying to hide bombs in laptops.

Restrictions on Powders in Carry-on Baggage

Effective June 30, 2018, the TSA implemented restrictions on passengers carrying powders on international flights to the United States. These new restrictions are reportedly due to an attempted attack in Australia in July 2017 and are aimed to screen for substances such as fentanyl and pepper powders that could harm passengers and crews if released during flights, as well as other powdery substances that could be used to make an explosive device.

“For your convenience, we encourage you to place powder-like substances over 12 ounces (350 mL) in your checked bags. Powders in carry-on baggage may require secondary screening, and powders that cannot be resolved by security officials will be prohibited from the cabin of the aircraft effective June 30, 2018. Check with your airline if you have questions about your flight to the U.S.” –

Powders are defined by TSA as fine dry particles produced by grinding, crushing, or disintegration of a solid substance. Items such as cosmetics, coffee, spices, and protein mixes fall under the restrictions.

Passengers will still be allowed to carry less than 12 ounces (350 mL) of powdery substances in their carry-on luggage, but the powders will need to be removed during the screening process. Passengers may also be allowed to bring more than 12 ounces of powder in their carry-on luggage if the screening process can prove the powder is safe, or if the powder is exempt from the rules.

Travelers will not have to submit baby formula, medicines, human remains, and certain other powders for extra screening. If passengers plan to bring more than 12 ounces of any of these items in their carry-on luggage, they should bring documentation identifying the powder with them.

Traveling with More than 12 Ounces

US authorities recommend that individuals traveling with more than 12 ounces of non-exempt powder should put the item(s) in their checked luggage. Individuals traveling with more than 12 ounces of powder that they need to have during the flight should bring documentation with them identifying the ingredients and usage.

What to Expect at Airports

The new restrictions will apply to all international flights to the United States, but some countries may choose to apply the rules to additional international flights.

The new rules will not affect domestic US flights or international flights originating in the US. The TSA already requires passengers at US airports to remove powders and some other items from bags before putting the bags through X-ray machines.

The new rules have not caused widespread disruptions or delays at airports. While the restrictions have almost certainly caused difficulties for individual travelers, there have not been reports of widespread problems with the new rules

WorldAware offers Travel Risk Management solutions that help businesses track their travelers and advise travelers of any disruptions. The WorldAware Airline Monitor Newsletter shares safety information of airlines that do not meet safety criteria with risk managers. Our dedicated transportation analysts track intelligence related to airlines and their changing risk profiles, so managers can make decisions to keep their travelers safe no matter where they’re going. 

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