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The TSA Is Cracking Down on Snacks at the Airport

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Bad news for frequent fliers: It may take you a little longer to get through airport security if you’re packing snacks. Food is still allowed in carry-on bags—so it’s not exactly time to panic yet—but The New York Times reports that TSA agents can ask passengers to remove their food and screen it separately, thus holding up the line.

The author of the article, Shivani Vora, wrote that she was recently delayed 15 minutes at Newark Liberty International Airport's security line when she overheard a TSA officer explaining the “new policy” to another passenger. She rifled through her two carry-on bags to find all of her snacks, placed them in a separate container, pushed them through the X-ray, and continued waiting while an officer inspected her food by hand.

Another passenger reported being delayed 15 minutes when the man in line ahead of her had to remove all of his Starbursts and bite-sized Twix, and similar complaints have been circulating in recent months. However, contrary to the TSA agent’s explanation and the apparent rise in cases such as these, the policy isn’t exactly new. It’s about a year old, and it gives TSA agents the power to screen food separately if they request it.

“There is no official policy which says that TSA agents must ask passengers to remove food from their bags,” TSA spokesman Mike England tells the Times. “Rather, the policy is that officers have the right to ask passengers to remove food if they feel that it’s necessary.”

The policy was reportedly enacted for safety reasons, because overstuffed bags can’t be screened as effectively, and some food items resemble explosives in an X-ray. If you’re not quite ready to give up your snacks, though, you can still save some time in the security line by applying for a TSA PreCheck.

[h/t The New York Times]

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What Happens When You Flush an Airplane Toilet?
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For millions of people, summer means an opportunity to hop on a plane and experience new and exciting sights, cultures, and food. It also means getting packed into a giant commercial aircraft and then wondering if you can make it to your next layover without submitting to the anxiety of using the onboard bathroom.

Roughly the size of an apartment pantry, these narrow facilities barely accommodate your outstretched knees; turbulence can make expelling waste a harrowing nightmare. Once you’ve successfully managed to complete the task and flush, what happens next?

Unlike our home toilets, planes can’t rely on water tanks to create passive suction to draw waste from the bowl. In addition to the expense of hauling hundreds of gallons of water, it’s impractical to leave standing water in an environment that shakes its contents like a snow globe. Originally, planes used an electronic pump system that moved waste along with a deodorizing liquid called Anotec. That method worked, but carrying the Anotec was undesirable for the same reasons as storing water: It raised fuel costs and added weight to the aircraft that could have been allocated for passengers. (Not surprisingly, airlines prefer to transport paying customers over blobs of poop.)

Beginning in the 1980s, planes used a pneumatic vacuum to suck liquids and solids down and away from the fixture. Once you hit the flush button, a valve at the bottom of the toilet opens, allowing the vacuum to siphon the contents out. (A nonstick coating similar to Teflon reduces the odds of any residue.) It travels to a storage tank near the back of the plane at high speeds, ready for ground crews to drain it once the airplane lands. The tank is then flushed out using a disinfectant.

If you’re also curious about timing your bathroom visit to avoid people waiting in line while you void, flight attendants say the best time to go is right after the captain turns off the seat belt sign and before drink service begins.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Don’t Fall For This Trick Used by Hotel Booking Sites
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Hotel booking sites can be useful tools when comparing prices, locations, and amenities, but some services use deceptive tactics to get you to click “book.”

A new report spotted by Travel + Leisure determined that those “one room left” alerts you sometimes see while perusing hotels can’t always be trusted. Led by the UK-based Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the eight-month investigation concluded that many sites use “pressure selling” to create a false sense of urgency in hopes that customers will book a room more quickly than usual. Similar notices about how many people are looking at a particular room or how long a deal will last are some of the other tactics travel booking websites employed.

The CMA also found that some discount claims had either expired or weren’t relevant to the customer’s search criteria, and hidden fees—like the much-maligned "resort fees"—are sometimes tacked on at the end of the booking process. (To be fair, many hotels are also guilty of this practice.)

The report didn’t drop any company names, but the consumer agency said it warned the sites that legal action would be taken if their concerns weren't addressed. The companies could be breaking consumer protection law, the CMA notes.

“Booking sites can make it so much easier to choose your holiday, but only if people are able to trust them,” Andrea Coscelli, the CMA's chief executive, said in a statement. “Holidaymakers must feel sure they’re getting the deal they expected … It’s also important that no one feels pressured by misleading statements into making a booking.”

Still, booking sites remain a convenient option, so if you decide to use one, just take your time and be cognizant that some of the claims you're seeing may not be entirely truthful.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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