What is allowed as airplane carry-ons?

From screwdrivers to ashes to baby formula: sorting out the carry-on rules

For guidance, the Transportation Security Administration refers travelers to its “Can I bring it?” Web page, which features a search tool that addresses what items are and are not permissible on airplanes.

For example, search for “knife,” and you get more than 30 results. Click on most of those and the answer is the same: a highlighted bar across the screen with the words “Check Only.”

But you get a seemingly contradictory result when you search for “saw,” certainly a sharp object. All of the eight different “saw” types are labeled “Check Only.” Yet the text just below those labels says, “Tools longer than 7 inches (measured from end to end when assembled) are prohibited in carry-on luggage; these items must be packed in your checked baggage.” Does that mean you could carry aboard a saw if it were shorter than 7 inches?

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Here’s a sampling of TSA advice. Keep in mind that even if an item is identified as generally permitted, the TSA cautions “it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.”

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS  While some airlines don’t allow separate seats for large instruments (see story facing page), those that do are not breaking TSA rules. Note, though, that while the listing for “cello” says “Check With Airline Policy,” the instructions for both “tuba” and “marching tuba” state “Check Only.” All instruments must be screened, and passengers are encouraged to be present. Airlines often recommend travelers allow an extra 30 minutes for this.