Business Travelers Adjust to New Airline Restrictions

To get past an airport security check in Denver on Friday, Keith McFarland removed no fewer than 23 bottles of liquids — everything from deodorant to eye drops — normally stowed in his carry-on bag, shipping them home instead by FedEx.

"When you live on the road, anything you need at home you carry with you," McFarland, a strategy consultant and former Inc. 500 CEO, who last year traveled some 140,000 miles on business, said Monday from his home in Salt Lake City.

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McFarland and other frequent business travelers are now learning to cope with heightened airport security in the wake of last week's terror scare in London.

On Monday, British Home Secretary John Reid lowered the nation's terrorist threat level to "severe" from "critical," less than a week after police arrested nearly two-dozen people in a suspected plot to blow up several U.S-bound commercial flights leaving from London's Heathrow Airport on Thursday.

The U.S. has also lowered its alert level since the arrests, though a ban remains on most liquids or gels in carry-on bags on all domestic and international flights. Investigators said the suspects arrested in the U.K. were carrying a component of a powerful liquid explosive.

To save time at airport check-in counters and security, frequent business travelers — or so-called road warriors — often prefer not to check any bags, opting instead to carry everything with them on board, McFarland said. Normally, that can include anything from a water bottle, to shampoo, suntan lotion, tooth paste, hair gel, and mouthwash — all items currently banned in carry-on bags by the Department of Homeland Security.

Other ramped-up security measures include X-rays of passengers' shoes, canine detection teams, and random gate and bag searches, among others, the Transportation Security Administration said.

Last year, about a third of all the money spent on domestic airline travel was by business travelers, according to Caleb Tiller, a spokesman for the National Business Travel Association.
Despite the latest crackdown, Tiller said there's no reason to believe the new restrictions will result in a significant decline in business travel this year.

"They've already began loosening up some of these restriction in past few days," Tiller said. "That's a good indication that it'll only be temporary."

However, some travelers have reported postponing business trips to the U.K. or re-routing their itineraries away from Heathrow, Tiller said. They are also beginning to look at alternatives to commercial air travel, such as charter or corporate jets.

He suggests business travelers check for updates from both airlines and government agencies before traveling, while working closely with their company's travel department or regular travel agency.

They should also plan ahead for longer check-in times, travel light, and carry copies of drug prescriptions, Tiller said.

Meanwhile, McFarland said he's still waiting for his eye drops and other personal-care items he shipped from the Denver airport to arrive home.

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"My whole system is thrown off," he said.

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