New California Airport Ban Will Completely Change How You Travel

Along with having to take off one’s shoes and the rise of body scanners, stringent liquid rules are one of the biggest changes to come out of post-9/11 airport travel.

In 2006, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) changed its onboard liquid regulations to less than 3.4 ounces and packed in a clear bag. Travelers have been forced to quickly chug or chuck their water bottle before passing through security and purchase any hydration they may need on the flight post-security at overpriced airport prices.

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While the liquid rule has remained in place, some airports have been pushing back against the high amounts of disposable plastic passing through their doors. In August 2019, San Francisco International Airport became the first in the country to ban the sale of water in single-use plastic bottles.


The Phase-Out Period Is Over

This week, another California airport joined the ban in a push to lower carbon emissions —  Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) now requires any water sold at the airport to come in cups or glasses, paper cartons or aluminum or glass bottles.

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners first approved the decision in June 2021 in accordance with the city of Los Angeles’ commitment to become fully carbon-neutral by 2050 and, over the last two years, has been in a “phase out” period before the ban fully came into effect.

The ban does not extend to water bottles served to passengers aboard the plane or other drinks served in plastic — Coca-Cola  (KO) – Get Free Report and Pepsi  (PEP) – Get Free Report products can still be served in their familiar plastic bottles. This is, however, one of the most far-reaching anti-plastic initiatives to date — with more than 32 million passengers passing through in 2022, LAX is the fifth busiest airport in the country.

“Eliminating single-use plastic water bottles is the right thing to do for our airports, our communities, and our environment,” Los Angeles World Airports CEO Justin Erbacci told a local news station.

Carbon-Neutral Push Leads to Questions

The plastic ban also extends to the nearby Van Nuys Airport (VNY), a smaller downtown airport used for noncommercial airplanes.

The 2021 Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners decision on the ban also gives LAWA permission to install “hydration stations” (water fountains and taps for refilling water bottles) throughout the airport.

More than 60 such stations have already been put in place but, for as long as the 3.4 ounce liquid requirement is still around, any reusable water bottle brought inside the airport will need to be empty and filled with water post-security. As such, the initiative has faced some criticism from those who see it as another hurdle to staying hydrated.

“Obviously LAX’s policy change is a push toward encouraging people to bring their own refillable bottles,” writes Ben Schlappig, the author of industry website One Mile At A Time. “But otherwise I have some questions: Why can establishments sell soda in plastic bottles, but not water? In many cases this will make soda cheaper than water, and may push people toward making less healthy purchases. Are there no concerns about all the potential broken glass we’ll see from this policy change? In this specific situation, is the environment impact actually entirely positive?”

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