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Airline Confiscates Empty Cigar Lighters Packed in Checked Luggage
Cigar Aficionado ^ | May 27, 2003 | James Suckling

Posted on 06/08/2003 1:05:01 PM PDT by ml/nj

Something Special in the Air

I am sitting on American Airlines Flight 1844, to Chicago from Santa Ana, Calif., as I write this story, and I am trying to control my rage. A Screwdriver has helped take off the edge.

About 30 minutes ago, American Airlines agents took two empty S.T. Dupont X-tend lighters out of my checked-in bag, and said that they needed to be destroyed. They claimed they were "dangerous goods" that could endanger the lives of my fellow travelers -- apparently the equivalent of weapons of mass destruction in today's airline world.

I was actually at the gate waiting for the flight when my name was called over the loudspeaker. "Sir, they have found two cigarette lighters in your bag and they need to be destroyed," said a woman who was working the check-in desk, rather officiously.

"Those two lighters are worth about $300," I said. "You can't just destroy them."

"I suggest you go and speak to the American Airlines employee who checked you in, but I think that you might miss your flight," she said, not really bothered and obviously saying her comment in hopes that I would relent to losing my lighters.

She looked horrified when I hightailed it towards the check-in desk. It meant going through the security gauntlet again, which included taking off my belt, shoes, eyeglasses and IWC stainless steel watch -- thank God I left my flak jacket at home.

Ms. Karen Lawson, the American Airlines compliance officer at John Wayne Airport (what would the Duke do in this situation?) couldn't have been less helpful. It was as if she was speaking to bin Laden himself as she explained that such dangerous goods as my lighters should be immediately destroyed. But she would give me two hours to find someone to pick them up, if I wished. "I can't give you any more time," she said, "and I am doing you a favor giving you two hours."

I explained that my 95-year-old grandmother, whom I had been visiting in California, was not up to the task of retrieving my lighters from her wretched grasp. "Couldn't you just give me the lighters back?" I asked politely.

"I am unauthorized to do that, and I could be fined if I did so," she said. She looked very annoyed that I was still standing in front of her.

I changed my tactic. "I fly more than 60,000 miles a year with American Airlines and I only have two hours to find someone to get my lighters? Surely, you can help me somehow?"

She said, "That's all I can do for you."

There was no use continuing. I spun around and ran for the security check to make my way to Gate 8 for the flight to Chicago. But I was really upset. It wasn't the money lost. It was something more disturbing. I felt that American Airlines had taken something more from me. Those were my lighters, personal things that I valued. One of them had traveled around the world with me. They were like old friends.

I understood and welcomed the security measures in the airport, but it all seemed so arbitrary. I had checked in lighters (empty of butane) on American Airline flights from the Dominican Republic to Miami as well as Miami to Las Vegas with no problem, a fact I explained to Ms. Lawson. But she would have nothing to do with it. Perhaps she wanted the lighters herself?

In any case, I hope she -- or whoever else ended up with them -- enjoys my lighters. And I hope she enjoyed the opportunity of being some sort of mini-dictator. What she should have done is offered to mail the lighters to my office in New York. Or, she could have simply said that she was extremely sorry for the loss. But she didn't care, and attitude like that is why few will shed tears when another few thousand American Airlines employees are fired, or their company closes. But I wish her, and American, no bad will.

Maybe she didn't care because I was a smoker. I certainly didn't have any prejudice for her officious, unthinking demeanor.

We all know what it is like to be a cigar smoker in America, so we are used to being treated poorly. Don't check your lighter in your luggage. Don't smoke in public places. Don't buy Cuban cigars. Don't inflict secondhand smoke on others.

I just wish some people could say it all with a smile.


TOPICS: Government
KEYWORDS: airlinesecurity
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To: strela
gas torches (including micro-torches and torch lighters) ...

Does the term "torch lighter" refer to ordinary cigarette/cigar lighters, or to devices used for lighting torches?

Also, out of curiosity, which style of lighter was this? Many butane lighters have an integral non-removable vessel which holds the gas; gas is injected into the vessel through a one-way valve, but there isn't necessarily any particularly easy way to inspect a lighter and confirm that it is in fact empty.

I guess the biggest question in my mind, though, is why the airline couldn't give the lighter back to the passenger while he was outside the security area given that they could have given it to any other person of the passenger's choosing?

21 posted on 06/08/2003 1:40:58 PM PDT by supercat (TAG--you're it!)
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To: ml/nj
Is there a Bushbot Ping List? I really need to know HOW this is supposed to help W get re-elected in '04?

Even as he tried to bond with the current generation of military when he landed on the Abraham Lincoln, he sent WWII Medal Of Honor winner Joe Foss TO HIS GRAVE with a fresh memory of some TSA idiots who tried to confiscate his Medal of Honor.

Examine the pilot casualty statistics for WWII to get some sense of just what a Medal of Honor meant and tell me that a outrage of that magnitude was not worthy of some response from the Bully Pulpit of the White House.

Oops! Too late. The man is dead.

Meanwhile, Tom Ridge and the boys are teaching every Barney Fife Police department how to harass people on the open highway with Government Mandated Traffic Jams known as Seatbelt Checkpoints.

And of course, we now have the Universal Internal Passport known as the Drivers License complete with Federal Social Security Number.

What part of the liberal agenda does this administration oppose?

$15 Billion to Africa for AIDS? No problem.

Restrictions on freedom of speech? No problem.

Can someone help me out?

Best regards to all,

22 posted on 06/08/2003 1:41:33 PM PDT by Copernicus (A Constitutional Republic revolves around Sovereign Citizens, not citizens around government.)
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To: longtermmemmory
lesson, carry lighter in your pocket.

but just one. My wife a bic in her purse and one in a carryon bag. They told her one was fine, but not tow.

Go figure.

I pack my knives and cigar clippers in checked bags and one good lighter goes carry-on.

23 posted on 06/08/2003 1:43:14 PM PDT by TC Rider (The United States Constitution 1791. All Rights Reserved.)
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To: Political Junkie Too
Do you mean due diligence like emptying the lighters before packing them?

The airline's rules, clearly stated on their web site, say nothing about them being empty or full. The rules say not to pack them, period. I can't see how it could be more clear. Don't take them at all, risk them being confiscated with the attendant hassle, or take another mode of transportation.

Why would an airline still want to confiscate empty lighters from checked baggage stowed in an inaccessible part of the plane?

Because they simply don't have time to check every possible source of ignition in checked baggage for the presence of flammable gas? It takes long enough to endure the stylized rectal examination that is flying today.

What more was he supposed to do?

Ask the airline before packing them would seem to be the right answer to me. If then told that they would not be allowed, he could have left his "old friends" home then gone to the airport gift shop and bought a Bic with an adjustable flame that members of the common herd like me uses every day to light cigars.

I just don't see any cause for outrage here. The guy failed to follow the rules and paid for it. If he doesn't like it, let him do the due diligence next time or take the bus.

24 posted on 06/08/2003 1:46:15 PM PDT by strela (Just shoot me now, 'cause I've done it all.)
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To: supercat
Does the term "torch lighter" refer to ordinary cigarette/cigar lighters, or to devices used for lighting torches?

Torch lighters are a new style of butane lighter that produces a low, high-intensity flame, similar to a blowtorch, for lighting cigars, or for use in windy locations (such as a beach) where a conventional lighter would blow out.

-PJ

25 posted on 06/08/2003 1:46:37 PM PDT by Political Junkie Too (It's not safe yet to vote Democrat.)
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To: longtermmemmory
lesson, carry lighter in your pocket.

You, sir or madam, win the Kewpie doll. I had a cheapo Bic in my pocket plus two in my shaving kit - worked just fine to light my Arturo Fuentes on my trip. And never once did the airport security goons even raise an eyebrow.

26 posted on 06/08/2003 1:47:55 PM PDT by strela (Just shoot me now, 'cause I've done it all.)
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To: supercat
if they gave it back they could not steal it. The has to be documentation for the passenger. They can't just take it without filing a report. Miami international broke up a ring of British airways baggage handlers who were regularly opening and stealing from london bound flights.
27 posted on 06/08/2003 1:48:44 PM PDT by longtermmemmory
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To: longtermmemmory
lesson, carry lighter in your pocket.

The key thing here, was that they were empty lighters. In essence, since they can't fuction, they could have just given them to him.

28 posted on 06/08/2003 1:49:22 PM PDT by Sonny M ("oderint dum metuant")
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To: savedbygrace
Go to American Airlines' website and write an email to them. Or call. Whatever

I just did that, and sent them this message:

I don't know my AA #, and to be honest I don't fly your routes much any more. But if the following story is true, I would go out of my way to avoid AA in the future.

The story I have in mind is the CONFISCATION of two empty cigar lighters in checked luggage detailed by James Suckling on Cigar Aficionado's website. (http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Daily/CA_Daily_News/0,2342,806,00.html)

Now before you go and tell me you were only following orders (as if that were a defense), I would like to know why your representative did not offer to mail Mr. Suckling's lighters to whatever address he suggested. (For a small fee, since I realize your financial predicament.) With service like this American will be sure to go the way of Eastern.

I requested a reply. We'll see what happens.

ML/NJ

29 posted on 06/08/2003 1:51:13 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: strela
The AA site also lists this:

There are certain exceptions for personal care, medical needs, sporting equipment, and items to support physically challenged passengers. For example:

It appears that he ought to have been able to carry one of his lighters onto the plane, as it was a lighter without a flammable liquid reservoir. Also, I wonder how they define "micro-torches." Do they mean torch lighters or the small micro torches used for home electrical work or cooking?

-PJ

30 posted on 06/08/2003 1:52:57 PM PDT by Political Junkie Too (It's not safe yet to vote Democrat.)
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To: strela
You, sir or madam, win the Kewpie doll. I had a cheapo Bic in my pocket plus two in my shaving kit - worked just fine to light my Arturo Fuentes on my trip. And never once did the airport security goons even raise an eyebrow.

For what it's worth, I've had Calibris and Prometheus lighters turn into worthless hunks of crap after 6 months. I now by the cheapo knockoffs at JRs for six bucks and they work forever.

31 posted on 06/08/2003 1:53:29 PM PDT by TC Rider (The United States Constitution 1791. All Rights Reserved.)
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To: supercat
Does the term "torch lighter" refer to ordinary cigarette/cigar lighters, or to devices used for lighting torches?

I would assume that a "torch lighter" in this context refers to a device designed to emit a fairly intense and high flame to light cigars or pipes. But that's just my opinion - you'd have to ask the airline to be sure. Which is what the author of this piece should have done.

Also, out of curiosity, which style of lighter was this?

There is a web site with a picture of one. Looks at first glance like a standard Zippo with a little bar poking out of the top of it. I guess the little bar is the part that drives the cost up to $150.

Many butane lighters have an integral non-removable vessel which holds the gas; gas is injected into the vessel through a one-way valve, but there isn't necessarily any particularly easy way to inspect a lighter and confirm that it is in fact empty.

Yup. The cheapie plastic ones are translucent or clear, which makes it easier to check them. Which leads me to believe that the expensive lighters confiscated were opaque.

I guess the biggest question in my mind, though, is why the airline couldn't give the lighter back to the passenger while he was outside the security area given that they could have given it to any other person of the passenger's choosing?

That bothered me too. Seems the easiest way to resolve the situation to me.

32 posted on 06/08/2003 1:53:50 PM PDT by strela (Just shoot me now, 'cause I've done it all.)
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To: ml/nj
I wonder why the Airline wouldn't charge the guy ten bucks and mail his dangerous cargo wherever he wanted it mailed.

I can see it now, ten bucks for a box packing and handling, ten bucks for postage, then they load it in the same plane they wouldn't let it on in his luggage.

;-)

33 posted on 06/08/2003 1:54:43 PM PDT by StriperSniper (Frogs are for gigging)
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To: longtermmemmory
What if he carried the lighter in his pocket?

I don't know about the metal detectors at the airports, but the ones at my prison will pick up a disposable BIC lighter. Had they been detected in his pocket, he would have had to discard them anyway.

34 posted on 06/08/2003 1:55:06 PM PDT by mass55th
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To: Political Junkie Too
It appears that he ought to have been able to carry one of his lighters onto the plane, as it was a lighter without a flammable liquid reservoir.

That wasn't made clear in the story. I found a web site that sells them, but didn't note the fuel source of the lighters in question. Do they use lighter fluid or something? - $150 for a lighter is a wee bit out of my price range.

Also, I wonder how they define "micro-torches." Do they mean torch lighters or the small micro torches used for home electrical work or cooking?

I would throw my butane-powered soldering iron into this category as well. The guy should have asked ...

35 posted on 06/08/2003 1:56:59 PM PDT by strela (Just shoot me now, 'cause I've done it all.)
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To: ml/nj

http://www.tsa.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/tsa_ppitems_06-02-2003.pdf

* You may take up to 2 butane lighters and/or safety matches in your carry-on baggage. You cannot pack lighters in your checked baggage. "Torch" lighters are not allowed in either checked baggage or carry-on baggage.

Note Some personal care items containing aerosol are regulated as hazardous materials. The FAA regulates hazardous materials. This information is summarized at http://cas.faa.gov/these.html


36 posted on 06/08/2003 1:57:55 PM PDT by Catspaw
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To: ml/nj
I found this follow-up elsewhere on CA's site:
Readers have responded passionately to European editor James Suckling's recent editorial, which documented his losing two lighters to overzealous airline officials on a recent trip from California to Chicago. Some shared his opinion, others were opposed, and many debated the dizzying and often conflicting rules about bringing cigar accessories on an airline. One reader, however, showed the true spirit of a cigar aficionado by offering to go to the airport to retrieve the lighters, if they were still available. Here is his follow-up letter:

Dear James:

I wasn't certain that I'd hear back from you so quickly. Given that I wasn't sure I would hear back before heading to San Diego tonight (Thursday) for the weekend, I took the liberty of calling American, who wouldn't give me a number for the American desk at John Wayne, insisting they didn't have a phone there, but instead gave me lost and found. Lost and found turned out to be the local sheriff stationed at the airport, who told me I needed to talk to the TSA rep. After being transferred back and forth twice more, and describing what happened, I was told there was nothing that could be done, because they take all the confiscated articles and FedEx them nightly to a location to be destroyed.

In the aftermath of September 11, I was prevented from flying with a carry-on lighter, but was told I could check it in my luggage. Since that time, I have made sure to check my lighter, although the last couple of times I flew I did carry-on a non-torch lighter. The TSA employee at John Wayne told me that their policies are changing all the time. Now the policy is that you are allowed to carry-on a non-torch lighter, but cannot have a lighter in your checked luggage. A torch-type lighter is not allowed in any circumstance.

The TSA employee advised me to check their web site, www.tsa.gov , before flying each time, because their policies are changing all the time. I suppose this is what we should expect when we combine government bureaucracy with an industry that does its best to alienate the customer.

Sorry I wasn't able to help out. It really would have been no trouble, as it would have been ten minutes out of my way. As you can see, I have faced the same problem and needed to find out the policy before my next flight in any event.

Please take care and keep up the good work!

Best Regards,
Dan Murphy

ML/NJ
37 posted on 06/08/2003 1:58:39 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: Servant of the Nine
I've flown out of John Wayne before, and they are a collection of crooks and petty dictators. I'm surprised the personnel at the airport don't have South American banana republic dictator uniforms.
38 posted on 06/08/2003 1:58:39 PM PDT by Bernard
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To: ml/nj
What a bee-atch.
39 posted on 06/08/2003 2:01:20 PM PDT by AdA$tra (Tagline maintenance in progress......)
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To: HAL9000
OK, I'm confused. www.tsa.gov appears to say that lighters can be carried on. Or am I wrong again?
40 posted on 06/08/2003 2:01:48 PM PDT by OldEagle (Haven't been wrong since 1947.)
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