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Future of limits on carry-on liquids and gels is hazy

If you’ve ever had to dump out perfume, soda, moisturizer or toothpaste before boarding a plane, you’ll be glad to hear that the head of the United Nation’s civil aviation branch believes the restrictions on gels and liquids on airplanes will be lifted by 2013.

But don’t get too hopeful.

Not long after the head of the International Civil Aviation Organization made the prediction, U.S. Secretary ofHomeland Security Janet Napolitano shot it down. “I think that’s premature,” she told the Associated Press.

The disagreement came to light during a meeting last week of the aviation group in Montreal to discuss commercial security measures.

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The Transportation Security Administration imposed limits on how much liquids passengers could carry on after British authorities foiled a terrorist plot in 2006 to detonate liquid explosives on U.S.-bound flights over the Atlantic.

Today, passengers can carry containers of up to 3.4 ounces of liquids and gels in see-through plastic bags. (The TSA has special procedures for traveling with larger amounts of breast milk, baby formula, food and medicines.)

How soon such restrictions are lifted may depend on the speed of advancements in security technology.

Peter Kant, executive vice president of Rapiscan Systems, the Torrance company that makes full-body scanners used by the TSA at airports, said the know-how already exists to scan containers of liquids and gels. He noted that the European Union is already moving to ease the current restrictions.

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Starting in April 2011, bottles of duty-free drinks and perfumes bought outside the EU or onboard non-EU airlines and carried in tamper-proof bags will be allowed and screened. Now, airline passengers can bring onboard liquids bought at EU airports and airlines under certain conditions.

Rapiscan makes the scanners that will be used next year to screen the containers in Europe, Kant said.

He declined to comment on when the TSA might ease the restriction in the U.S. But he said advances in screening technology are moving fast. “Liquid detection is very possible in the very short term,” Kant said.

Looks matter when planning vacations

Curb appeal can be critical in selling a home, but it also may be important in selling you on a vacation spot.

About a third of all Americans look at images on Google Street View to check out hotels and other destinations before booking a vacation, according to a survey of more than 6,000 people by the online coupon firm Couponcodes4u.com.

Google Street View displays street-level panoramic images of streets and neighborhoods shot by specially designed vehicles that have been deployed to thousands of sites in at least nine countries. (You can also see street-level images at Mapquest.com and Bing.com.)

Of those who checked out the online street-level images on Google, 42% said they did so to see if the vacation destination would be a good value for the money.

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About 20% of those surveyed said they also use Google Street View to look at the houses of celebrities, and 16% admitted that they have looked at images of their own house just to see if they could see themselves.

Hotel guests have simple tastes

Forget about what you see in the movies. The average hotel guest does not order champagne and eggs Benedict while watching the latest big-budget epic by James Cameron.

At least not the guests of the Park Plaza hotels.

The chain of 35 hotels around the world, operated by Minnesota-based Carlson Hotels, combed through hotel sales receipts to figure out the most common food, drink and movie purchased by guests. The results might be surprising.

The most favorite food ordered by guests: pizza

The most commonly ordered drinks: water and Red Bull.

The most popular movie ordered by hotel guests: the 1994 prison drama “The Shawshank Redemption.”

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hugo.martin@latimes.com


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