Restrictions are in the process of being eased on taking liquids and toiletries through airport security. When is this likely to be rolled out?
The alternative is to pack toiletries in the hold luggage or to buy whatever you need at airport shops.
The rules were put into place in 2006 after a foiled terrorist plot but were only supposed to be a temporary measure. Seventeen years later we still have to tolerate the queues and accompanying groans as we shuffle slowly through security as belongings are screened.
With the UK’s eight biggest airlines planning to fly 150 million more passengers a year (imagine 300,000 extra jumbo jets to get the size of it), this status quo becomes unsustainable.
There was some hope in 2019 when former prime minister Boris Johnson talked of easing the rules at some UK airports by 1st December 2022.
However, the Covid pandemic put paid to that. The present prime minister Rish Sunak extended the deadline until June 2024.
Unfortunately, London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester airports look set to miss the deadline. This is because some new scanners will be in place, and other lanes will be operating the current scanners, meaning 100ml limits to carry-on liquids will still apply confusing travellers.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said:
“It’s very disappointing that some airports may miss the government deadline to install new CT security scanners by June this year. By allowing passengers to keep items like laptops and liquids in their bags, these scanners had the potential to drastically cut security queues in time for the peak summer travel season.
“With different rules and processes now likely to apply at different airports, it’s essential passengers check before they travel so they don’t get caught out. Unfortunately, the lack of consistency is likely to be confusing for a lot of travellers – and may lead to further hold ups.”
Heathrow has 146 security lanes, more than all the other UK airports combined, so installation is a complex operation. Some of Heathrow’s terminals – T2, T3 and T5 – already have some new scanners, with T4 expected to have some by the summer. London Gatwick and Manchester airports both say that they are well on the way to completion by the end of the year.
City Airport wanted to be the first to scrap the 100ml liquid limit in time for the Easter Holidays but Teesside International Airport has got there first. Now both airports have put in place two state-of-the-art CT scanners that allow for clearer 3D images, so passengers can go through security without having to take out their liquids from their bags and board their flight to Corfu or Amsterdam unfrazzled.
There is a snag though. On the return journey the airport may not have measures in place, so old rules apply. It could be a problem if you haven’t got checked-in luggage. So use up your liquids or decant into 100ml containers for the return journey.
Happily, Amsterdam’s Schiphol has deployed the new scanners, which means that a passenger flying out from City Airport can now complete an entire return flight carrying liquids up to 2 litres.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has long insisted that the present measures are unsustainable. They have an eye on “Smart Security”. The ultimate aim is to wave goodbye pat-downs. Robots may replace sniffer dogs, and iris or facial recognition may find their way into the system some vague time in the future in effect making the physical passport redundant.
It may take a while, but then again, we have waited 17 years for the aviation industry to finally update the 100ml liquids rule and we still have to wait for the rollout.
What are the current rules?
- All weapons, whether firearms, knives or explosives, are banned from hand luggage.
- Liquids must be stored in containers with 100ml maximum volume, and they must be carried in resealable clear plastic bags – these are handed out at the airport just before security – with a maximum volume of one litre. This could be 10 bottles of 100ml.
What is a liquid?
- soup, jam, honey and syrups
- creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lip gloss
- sprays, including shaving foam, hairspray and spray deodorants
- pastes, including toothpaste
- gels, including hair and shower gel
- contact lens solution
- any other solutions and items of similar consistency