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RANT: TSA Allows You to Bring 12 Ounces of a Flammable Substance Onboard!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


The TSA recently announced that airline passengers may now carry up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in their carryon bags. In the good old days — you know, before COVID-19 — people could only bring 3.4 ounces of the stuff with them.

Because TSA deemed many liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes as security threats and dangerous, y’see.

But because of COVID-19 and the need for everyone to be as sanitary as possible, the TSA has upped the hand sanitizer to 12 ounces. Per passenger.

Kills germs and has aloe!

Now, that’s certainly gracious of them. But I have two questions:

1. How the heck much hand sanitizer does someone need between during an entire trip? (Unless the trip spans many months).  Like, when people bought ten cases of toilet paper a couple of months ago, they should’ve visited their doctor if their bodies required so much Charmin.

My wife and I bought a few 12-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer three years ago when our daughter was born. We still haven’t emptied any of them.

2: Hand sanitizer is flammable. (Merriam-Webster gives both “flammable” and “inflammable” about the same definition. So let’s not burn up — heh, heh — the Comments section with that debate.)

Even an FAA study says so:

…. hand sanitizer, which is approximately 60% alcohol by volume, is flammable and can easily be ignited with a common grill lighter when poured into a pan. It tends to burn relatively coolly (compared to fuel, plastic, or cellulose fires) with peak flame temperatures between 500° and 1000°F. The observed temperatures above the flame were higher for the liquid hand sanitizer compared to the gel. The vapor is flammable and can be ignited by heating the liquid from the bottom and then igniting the vapor. The hot liquid does not have to be present to ignite the vapor; however, the vapor could not be ignited at room or elevated ambient temperatures (up to 100°F) without bottom-heating the hand sanitizer. When a nearly full bottle of hand sanitizer was involved in a fire started by burning paper towels, it burned hotter and somewhat vigorously. At one point, a fire burning adjacently to a 12-ounce liquid bottle of hand sanitizer reached temperatures in excess of 1500°F.

(“Need help lighting that jet engine, Captain? Look no further! I have a 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer in my laptop bag! No need to thank me.”)

Now, in all fairness, the same study says:

Typical aircraft interior panels, oriented horizontally or vertically, did not ignite and burn independently, nor was there any significant damage, when exposed to burning hand sanitizer for 10-20 minutes. From the tests conducted, burning hand sanitizer does not pose any significant risk to commercial transport fire safety, given the present cabin material flammability requirements.

These are the government’s words. So we can trust them 100%.

Right?

Big, Deal, Chris! Other Alcohol is Allowed on Board!

Oh, I know.

Wild Turkey bourbon is served during a Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas.

Yes, liquor is flammable. (Don’t ask me how I know. But no one was critically hurt and my friend physically recovered within day or two. Though he never has to shave part of his face again.)

So why can’t we bring 12 ounces of our favorite libations on board?

Shouldn’t We Able to Bring More of Our “Safe” Items on Board?

Exactly. And that’s my point.

Hand sanitizer can be dangerous in the wrong, ill-intentioned hands. But, by all means, a group of ne’er-do-wells could cause some trouble by incinerating a bunch of hand sanitizer.

I highly doubt that will happen. This post isn’t about creating fear, I promise.

What gets my goat is why TSA gives the go-ahead for more hand sanitizer but not, say, bottled water — especially when service is limited on so many flights. Yes, we can purchase bottled water for a bazillion dollars at the airport. But it’d be nice if — especially during these times — we could bring our own.

Similarly, why doesn’t TSA give the go-ahead for increases in shampoo, shower gel, and some other toiletries?

I shouldn’t be surprised the Theatre of Security Arts created another odd rule. We’ve been dealing with this for nearly 20 years. But that’s more than enough time for the agency to have figured out some of this stuff.

What Do You Think?

Much do about anything? Or should TSA allow increases in other gels, liquids, etc?

Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section. (And keep it flame-free. 😉 I’m on fire today!)

— Chris

 

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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10 Comments

  1. At least give us bottled water so we can put out the sanitizer fires!!

  2. This is one where you are little off base I think. First, I fly a long distance and want everything around me santitized. I get to my location and take Uber to the hotel. I need to santize. I get to the hotel and now I need to santitize everything in the room and bath. I take Uber the next day to another hotel, another series of meetings, and hotel again. This repeats for my whole trip.

    At what point can I go and buy more hand sanitizer? Most every store in my area has a big sign saying what they do not have. Hand sanitizer is on it. My local hardware store, does sell hand sanitizer, in 1 gallon jugs.

    911 put in our minds that all these tiny bottles we now use are to keep us safe. They need to relax all those rules and I am glad they went the way of hand sanitizer.

  3. 1. As you observe the FAA studied the issue and found no risk to aircraft
    2. Airlines are now bringing on not just one ounce per passenger but double catering for return flights, so it’s twice that much. That’s a decision made in consultation both with an airline’s certificate management office and FAA hazardous materials.
    3. 12 ounces makes sense for say a family, and it’s not just for one flight but assume that family taking connecting flights and roundtrip.
    4. We want people to still have some at their destination! Do you want them in an Uber or public transit without it?

    This is simply not a risk, and the agencies that you scoff at ‘we trust 100%’ are inherently conservative in their approach.

    Maybe 12 ounces is more than needed, but why not err on encouraging people to sanitize their hands more not less?

  4. I use water to sanitize my hands usually so does that qualify? 🙂

  5. I think you forget that you CAN bring 12 ounces of liquor, in four 3-ounce bottles (or eight 1.5-ounce bottles). The same is basically true for most liquids and was before the relaxed hand sanitizer rules.

  6. Because it’s less than 100 proof, I don’t think that the alcohol served during flights is flammable. At least, I haven’t been served anything over 80 proof.

    • I’ve had Wild Turkey 101 (101 proof) on several Southwest flights. (That’s actually what’s pictured above ) Tasty stuff! But, yes, I believe most spirits are in the 80-proof range.

  7. I think flight safety is the also responsibility of the airline not just TSA or any other governmental agency. If hand sanitizer or anything else creates a hazard for flight safety, I would hope an airline has the ability to outlaw it without TSA approval like it can prevent smoking onboard.

  8. Any liquor 80 proof or above can be ignited with a match or lighter. The flame is blue meaning relatively cool. Try it. 🙂 At least one beverage commonly served, Woodford Reserve, is 90 proof.

  9. Last time I checked you could bring a grand total of 1 litre of 99 % alcohol in 10 100 ml bottles pretty much anywhere and no one will check further than a visual and x-ray inspection.

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