Airport security liquids rule – what is changing?

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In normal times around the world, half a million people pass through airport security every hour. Many airline travelers say this is the worst part of traveling—specifically, the need to confine LAGs (liquids, aerosols, and gels) to small containers and remove them from cabin luggage.

The rules were hastily introduced in 2006 as a temporary measure. Despite repeated assurances, they are firm.

In 2019 Boris Johnson vowed that by 1 December 2022 the rules would be relaxed at major UK airports, eliminating the need to scan large amounts of liquids separately.

There is no chance of that happening with a week to go. But can tensions ease by 2024? Simon Calder, former security officer at Gatwick Airport and current independent Travel correspondents can help.

What are the rules for passengers’ cabin baggage?

The rules about what you can pack in your carry-on bag have evolved over the decades in response to attacks – successful and otherwise.

No weapons, whether firearms, knives or explosives may be carried. But there are strict rules about liquids, aerosols, gels, pastes, lotions, and cosmetics, even down to yogurt and soft cheese.

How did the fluid rule come about?

In August 2006 the aviation industry – and baffled travelers – tightened security rules overnight for passengers. The government announced that it had uncovered a terror plot to fly transatlantic jets from Heathrow to North America.

The criminals’ objective was to transport materials for improvised explosive devices on several aircraft. The material derived from hydrogen peroxide was to be disguised in soft drink containers.

The terrorists aimed to assemble the bombs on board before they could detonate and destroy the aircraft; He was later convicted of offenses including conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to commit an explosion.

In the early hours of 10 August 2006, UK airlines called to tell bosses that their passengers would be banned from carrying anything more than a purse or wallet into the aircraft cabin. Even pens were banned from transatlantic flights on the grounds that the ink they contained was a liquid.

A concession was made for nursing mothers: they could take milk for their baby through the checkpoint, but only if they tasted it to show that it was the real thing.

The baggage system could not cope with two or three times the normal number of luggage, and Heathrow Airport almost came to a standstill. Flight networks in the UK and elsewhere in Europe were also affected.

And then …?

Three months later, the rules were relaxed – but with strict limits that are still in place today. No container may exceed 100 ml, and they must be carried within a reusable clear plastic bag with a maximum volume of one litre.

Even a minor relaxation of the rules – to allow the purchase of beverages at the airport to be carried through checkpoints in a sealed “security tamper-evident bag” (stab) – was greatly delayed in its implementation. .

Many travelers are still getting caught out, and losing their expensive airport purchases, because drinks are not allowed through the airport where they change planes.

The limits were introduced as a “temporary measure” while airport security technology caught up. But progress has been very slow.

Is there a technical solution?

Yes, and it’s already being used at airports like Shannon in the west of Ireland, where “liquids, gels, pastes, lotions and cosmetics in containers of any size” are allowed through security.

Expensive scanners use computed tomography (CT), as is done in medical scanners. The machines can analyze the molecular composition of the contents of a passenger’s bag, detect any potential threats, and present a three-dimensional image to security officers.

Why are we waiting?

Progress in improving airport technology has been very slow. in 2019 Government asks all major UK airports to install advanced CT scanners at security checkpoints by 1 December 2022,

Boris Johnson said at the time: “By making travel through UK airports easier than ever, this new tool will help our airports to secure the UK’s position as a global hub for trade, tourism and investment.” will help promote the important role of

It hasn’t happened: during the COVID-19 pandemic, airports suffered catastrophic losses as passenger numbers plummeted and millions of pounds of investment were not needed.

What’s happening now?

London Heathrow, which is by far the busiest airport in the UK, is in the process of installing the necessary machines. Airport Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said many times Heathrow has been given a deadline of mid-2024 by the DFT.

“Until then the general passenger experience will be that liquids stay in bags,” he said.

If the DFT directive – which has not been confirmed – applies to other major airports, the same applies to Gatwick, Manchester, Stansted, Luton, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Glasgow, Bristol, Belfast International, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds Bradford, East Midlands Will happen. , London City, Aberdeen, Belfast City, Southampton, Jersey, Cardiff and Southend (these are airports with more than one million passengers annually in 2019).

So it’s all good, then?

Not necessarily: passenger confusion is an ongoing problem for aviation security. Nothing has changed yet, although some travelers can guess that it has.

In response to the story in many timesA spokesman for the Department for Transport (DFT) said independent: “Passengers must carry liquid containers no larger than 100ml through security at UK airports, and both liquids and electronics must be taken out of cabin bags at airport security checkpoints.”

That’s not quite true: some smaller Scottish airports, including Barra, Campbelltown and Tyrie, have had no security checks since 2017.

Around the world, the lack of conformance is a major issue for aviation security professionals – and passengers.

Liquids are limited at many airports but can remain in passengers’ bags. Laptops and tablets such as the iPad must be removed in the UK and many other countries, but in some countries they are not required to be removed.

In Israel, the procedures are completely different. Officials say: “Passengers should arrive three hours prior to departure for the security screening process.” In-depth questioning is sometimes done by the authorities, and the laptop must be removed. But liquids are allowed without any restrictions.

Key issue: Passengers shouldn’t expect uniform aviation security around the world (or even UK-wide).

Is it going to cost me more?

Airports that are collectively investing hundreds of millions of pounds will demand a return – and this could include raising fees. But the new technology should cut staff costs, which represents savings for airports.

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – representing airlines worldwide – said: “Implementing this technology should not result in a large bill. In fact, the simplified procedures should deliver significant efficiencies.”

“Quick deployment should be possible. The technology has already been used successfully and for a long time at various airports around the world with significant improvement in passenger experience.

Will aviation security remain a permanent sore?

No. In 2019 the International Air Transport Association (IATA) described the current security situation as “no longer sustainable”. It has been working with airports for more than a decade on a project called “smart security”.

Ultimately, walk-through metal detectors and security pat-downs of multiple passengers should be eliminated, with technology assessing potential threats more effectively than humans looking at screens.

Passengers should be able to walk unchallenged along a corridor surrounded by detectors, barely aware they are being screened.

Checkpoints will still be staffed, but security personnel will be freed up to do what they do best, which is to study passengers’ behavior and identify “persons of interest” for further investigation.

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