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The TSA's New Video: Packing It In

John Deiner

Thanks to Brian Williams of NBC News, who gave props to USA Today last night for its story on the Transportation Security Administration's new video on packing for holiday travel.

The TSA has spent $10,000 (not a huge sum by any stretch) on a video promoting ways to make holiday travel easer. Called "SimpliFLY," the 60-second film says we should travel in neat layers: Fold your clothes and put them on the bottom of your carryon luggage, then neatly coil all of your electronics and place them on top of the first layer. Then put another layer of clothes on top of them. The point, the video says, is to make it easier for TSA agents to ID your electronics.

Makes sense, and it would be nice if anyone in America actually traveled like this. My carryon is usually a mess of shoes, clothes with scuff marks from the aforementioned shoes, and electronics jammed in wherever I can fit them. I'm all for safety in the air, but, boy . . . I can't be the only one who rushes to the airport and throws my bag together, can I? Throw in holiday clutter like gifts, and forget it.

USA Today quoted Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, who liked the TSA's effort but said he's not "real optimistic" it'll trim security lines. "The message is a pretty sophisticated one, and it's a lot for the average person who is traveling for the first time in months to remember."

Take a look at the video and let us know what you think. How realistic is it to get infrequent travelers to pack this way? And is it really going to help speed security lines this holiday season?

By John Deiner |  November 20, 2007; 1:03 PM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , John Deiner
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I fly a couple of times a year since I am in the MSP area and my family is back on the east coast. So maybe I'm not a completely infrequent traveler, but I'm sure not a frequent business traveler like my husband.

You know what? I pack like this, both carry-on and check-in bags. Well, not exactly like this, but close - clothes on the bottom, the 3-1-1 bag, and a medium-sized zip up bag for my electronics (the latter two are thrown into a single X-Ray bin).

I packed like this well before 9/11. Because several of my possessions that always go in the carry-on - a Phorm book light, my pearls (either real or costume), my diabetic blood sugar level meters - they have always caused my bag to be opened. Add to that that my Mediterranean coloring tends to get me stopped for those "random" searches (*snort*), so I make sure my bags are easy to disassemble and reassemble.

Security lines and the procedures that will let you get through them easier are not a mystery. TSA publishes materials like this to try and get the message out in a timely and effective manner. But the media just says "yeah, yeah, yeah - it's cute isn't it?"

That attitude doesn't really help get the message across that if everyone made at least a small effort that things could go faster across the board. The message is - go ahead and pack last minute and hold up the security line, despite the fact we're telling you how to make it go faster.

Is it a pain in the butt? Yup. Am I a bit anal? Probably ;)

But since we get to the airport early anyway, my husband and I just find an empty gate somewhere or head to the WorldClub lounge once we're past security, and put our bags back in order so they are more efficient for travel (i.e. - put the cell phones in an easy-to-reach pocket, put the 3-1-1 stuff back into the Dopp kit, etc.).

I figure the 5 minutes this takes after we get through security is less (and less embarrassing) than having our bags taken apart in the security line.

Oh - and Christmas presents? Ship 'em beforehand. It takes a little planning, but you'd be surprised how much smoother your trip goes. And if you're stuck because of weather, then there's some other stuff you don't have to lug around.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | November 20, 2007 1:53 PM

Rollaboard suitcases aren't usually what get picked apart by TSA screeners. In my experience, they've ignored my overhead-bin-bound suitcase (which, yes, is packed in layers) and gone straight for my under-the-seat tote bag, which usually holds reading material, food, empty water bottle, iPod and cellphone, and chargers for same; the 311 baggie is already in the bin with my shoes at this point. Since these are the items I'm going to want at hand on the flight, how am I supposed to pack them to keep them handy?

The security holdup at the holidays isn't the packing techniques of infrequent travelers, it's their clothing choices. I've been stuck behind people who needed to shuck coat, hoodie, knee boots and jewelry before they could get through security - and God forbid they get it all off *before* the security agent has to tell them for the third time that no, you can't pass through the metal detector wearing a belt that looks like chain-mail. I'm not advocating that we all travel in sweats and flipflops, but apply some common sense, please!

Another holdup is families who have to travel with what always looks like the equivalent of a small superstore worth of child equipment. I don't care how many layers these poor families manage to wrangle their baggage into, they'll never, ever get through security quickly. (And then there's getting the kid him/herself through security - see disrobing, above.) I have no idea how parents can cut down on this load, either. And the kid will always want what's on the bottom.

Posted by: BxNY | November 20, 2007 2:30 PM

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