The Transportation Security Administration clamped down on liquids and gels in carry-ons way back in 2006. An entire generation is reaching adulthood without ever having known the carefree bliss of being able to stroll right into an airport with a beverage purchased from the outside world.
Now the liquid ban, which was applied out of a concern for bomb threats, is being complicated by a response to a second modern concern: plastic waste.
Earlier this summer, Los Angeles International Airport, otherwise known as LAX, finally instituted a ban on the sale of plastic bottles that was announced a few years back.
Single-use plastic water bottles will no longer be offered for sale at LAX shops. Instead, some 60 self-service refilling stations have been installed throughout the airport. Passengers who wish to carry water inside the LAX terminals must bring their own empty bottles to fill up past the security checkpoints.
The ban doesn't apply to every kind of beverage sold in plastic bottles, though.
According to a statement, "Pre-packaged single-use plastic bottles of all sizes containing non-carbonated and unflavored purified water, spring water, mineral water, artesian water, well water, tap water, and electrolyte-enhanced water are subject to the policy. Bottled water served onboard aircraft is exempt."
Apparently the unfolding global climate disaster doesn't apply to powerful soft drink and juice manufacturers—they're also exempt from the ban.
If you're flying though LAX, bring your own water bottle. It can be an empty single-use plastic bottle from an earlier flight, if you want. Or a Coke bottle that you bought at LAX 3 minutes before. You simply can't purchase a full water bottle on the premises.
In our experience, airports don't have the most glorious record when it comes to terminal maintenance. Anyone who has risked their microbiological health by using some airport restrooms can tell you that.
So let's hope LAX truly stays on top of the cleanliness and operation of the newly installed filling stations.
We're not encouraged by the fact that more than a month after the new rule went into effect, the official LAX website still has not posted an easy-to-find list of the locations of the new refilling stations. The site's interactive map isn't much help, either, showing in some cases only a single station for entire terminals.
San Francisco's SFO brought in water refilling stations a few years back. Those include some newfangled touchless systems that offer temperature options for passengers. So we know not only that water-filling stations can work but also that they can be an improvement on waiting in line at airport shops. Plus, the stations end up saving you money by letting you avoid scalper's rates for water in the terminal.
You just have to remember to pack that empty bottle.
Or bring fewer than 3.4 ounces, the TSA's limit for liquids. Or be a camel.