UK could see the end of luggage liquid rules in near future

Passengers in Heathrow Airport terminal 5a
Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport.

LONDON – We may soon see the back of the UK liquid restriction limitation rule which has been in place across all airports in the United Kingdom since 2006.

The rules were initially imposed after intelligence services obtained evidence to suggest that there were multiple plots to blow up aircraft – targeting flights over the Atlantic which had left Heathrow for North American destinations.

During former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s tenure, he had made a pledge to start using this technology in airports in a bid to begin the process of speeding up pre-boarding checks and increase security. However this fast track pledge was somewhat halted by the Covid pandemic which effectively put a worldwide handbrake on air travel. 

SOURCE: Gatwick Airport

Use of scanner technology

The equipment that will be used to eliminate the need to have a 100ml limit, will be a scanner that is similar to that of CT scanners that are frequently used in hospitals today. That provides a clearer picture of a bags contents. CT, standing for Computed Technology, are X-ray systems that create a 3D image of carry on items.

With this opportunity created by the machine, it means that border force officers are able to easily detect prohibited items such as weapons and other banned substances. 

Heathrow Airport has been trialling these scanners since 2017; somewhat behind the curve compared to our North American counterparts across the Atlantic. The USA’s Transportation Security Administration has placed orders for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these machines that have been in use in Airports in Atlanta and Chicago for a number of years.

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport said this of the new technology: “We have just started the expansion of the security area in Terminal 3 which will have more CT scanners and have a deadline of mid-2024 from the Department for Transport. By then the normal passenger experience will be that liquids stay in bags.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: “Passengers at UK airports must not carry liquid containers larger than 100ml through security, and both liquids and electronics should be taken out of cabin bags at airport security checkpoints.”

“Fortunately as this trial technology begins to move to the forefront of airport security, the aforementioned will become a thing of the past. Keeping liquids in bags and having the bag scanned in full with all its contents in it will become the new normal in airports.”

Shannon Airport abolishes restriction

Shannon Airport in Ireland abolished the 100ml restriction on liquid in hand luggage earlier this year, however its convenience only suits if the airport a traveller is due to land at has the same rules in place. So if a flight is part of a two leg transfer then the old (current) restrictions and rules still apply. 

Shannon Airport still strives to be in a situation whereby they will not need to ask travellers to take laptops out of bags in the future. With travel expert Eoghan Corry saying: “what has changed is the technology… four or five companies have been upping the level of technology all the time.”

Its good to see that the UK’s airports are now following suit, and so long as the level of security and scrutiny that officials put travellers baggage under does not drop, then it will certainly be a welcome introduction. Fingers crossed the rest of the UK’s airports follow suit and are using this technology in 2024. 

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