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DOS, DON'TS FINE-TUNED FOR HOLIDAY PLANE TRAVEL

Nail files and knitting needles will now pass muster, but forget about toting pocketknives, golf clubs or ski poles with your carry-on luggage if you're planning to travel by air during the holiday season.

The federal Transportation Security Administration's updated rules on what can and cannot be brought into the passenger cabin also give a green light to corkscrews, butter knives and tweezers.

But don't attempt to stash wrapped gifts in your carry-on bags, because personnel at the security checkpoint are required to unwrap such presents to determine their contents.

The security agency is also warning fliers to pack all camera film, exposed and unexposed, in their carry-on luggage. New baggage-screening equipment in use at a number of major airports across the nation will damage undeveloped film.

With the busiest travel weeks of the year just ahead, the security agency and local airports are putting out this and other information as part of a national "Prepare for Takeoff" campaign. The effort is aimed at re-educating passengers on how to travel safely and avoid unnecessary delays, according to Jay W. Stroup, the agency's security director assigned to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Stroup said misinformation about what items can and cannot be packed in luggage or carried aboard flights could lead to even bigger problems.

"Passengers need to be more vigilant about what they are taking through the security checkpoint," Stroup said. "They need to understand that the TSA will act swiftly and decisively against anyone who violates the federal statues and regulations. Penalties can include possible arrest and sizable fines."

With Thanksgiving, generally considered the busiest holiday travel period of the year, less than two weeks away, federal and local airport officials are eager to get the word out to passengers to arrive ready to fly. Lawrence M. Meckler, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, said travelers will be helping themselves by knowing the security rules.

"Following the recommended procedures before arriving at the airport will increase passenger check-in efficiency and make for a more pleasurable traveling experience," Meckler said.

The latest rules for checked luggage allow travelers to pack such items as swords, small unloaded personal firearms, cattle prods and power saws, as long as they are wrapped or boxed according to federal guidelines. Box cutters, spear guns, Mace and pepper spray also are allowed if packed correctly.

But under no circumstances will such materials as flare guns, fuel for camp stoves, strike-anywhere matches, large volume aerosols or any form of explosive or accelerant be allowed.

Other tips to reduce potential airport security delays:

Avoid wearing clothing and accessories that might set off airport metal detectors

Prepare to pass through security by placing all metal objects inside a carry-on bag for one-stop screening, take laptop computers out of carrying cases and remove winter coats and jackets before passing through the magnetometer.

Passengers are also reminded that they are limited to one carry-on bag, plus one personal item -- purse, briefcase, laptop, diaper bag -- and that they should arrive early to avoid problems catching their flights.

As has been the case since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only ticketed passengers are allowed access to the departure gates beyond the security checkpoint. Family and friends should plan to drop off and pick up travelers in the airport's front ticketing concourse or in the baggage-claim area.

The complete set of rules on what items can be carried on or packed are available at the security agency Web site: www.tsa.dot.gov.

Information specific to the Buffalo airport, including up-to-the-minute flight information, is available at www.buffaloairport.com.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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