What effect will the new liquid restrictions have?
Generally, there are restrictions on the amount of liquids one can take in their hand luggage, this includes all drinks, liquid foods, cosmetics and toiletries, sprays, pastes, gels and anything similar.
These restrictions were introduced in 2006 after a plot to blow up planes was uncovered. The would-be attackers had planned to hide explosives inside soft drink containers.
The initial restrictions were introduced with very little notice and passengers were told they could only take a purse or wallet on board. Only milk for babies was allowed through, on the grounds that the accompanying parent tasted it in front of security staff.
These restrictions lasted three months and were then relaxed to what we know now.
If a flier does take liquids on to a plane, the containers must hold no more than 100 ml and be in a single, transparent, resealable bag which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm. Only one bag is allowed per person.
Teesside and London City Airport have both introduced new technology, which means that these restrictions no longer apply at these airports. Major airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh have been given until 2024 to invest in the new technology.
New advanced CT scanners have the ability to create 3D-layered images that can be tilted and rotated, so security staff are better able to identify the contents of bags. Current machines are only able to produce 2D images.
The CT scanners use the same technology as their medical siblings and can analyse the molecular structure of the contents of a bag.
They also have updated explosive detection capability.
The new scanners also mean that laptops, cameras and tablets can remain inside hand luggage when it comes to security checks.
It is hoped that the new security will cut the amount of time passengers have to wait in security queues.
The new technology reduces the amount of time that security staff spend searching bags – time which some argue can be spent looking at the person instead.
At airports which have installed the new scanners, passengers will be able to carry up to two litres of liquid in their hand luggage and this will not need to be carried in a clear plastic bag.
At the end of 2022, the transport secretary Mark Harper announced that the rules would change by 2024, with the installation of new technology. He pointed out that most major airports would install the technology by 2024 and highlighted the greater convenience and improved security.
He said: “The tiny toiletry has become a staple of airport security checkpoints, but that’s all set to change. I’m streamlining cabin bag rules at airports while enhancing security.
“By 2024, major airports across the UK will have the latest security tech installed, reducing queuing times, improving the passenger experience, and most importantly detecting potential threats.
“Of course, this won’t happen straight away – this is going to take 2 years to be fully implemented. Until then, passengers must continue following the existing rules and check before travelling.”
He also announced that airports had until June 2024 to upgrade their systems. In the meantime, passengers are reminded that usual rules apply unless they are told otherwise in relation to the airport they are travelling from.
Christopher Snelling, policy director at The Airport Operators Association (AOA), said: “This investment in next-generation security by the UK’s airport operators will provide a great step forward for UK air travel, matching the best in class around the world.
“It will make the journey through the UK’s airports easier and air travel itself more pleasant.”
There is a concern that the information has not been widely or adequately explained to passengers. Some people may have heard the headlines and expect the new restrictions to apply to all airports and turn up to airport security not meeting the restrictions. Of course airport security is not the same all over the world, so if a passenger is flying out of London City Airport, the restrictions will not apply on their outbound journey, but may very well do when they fly back out of an airport abroad.
It is also important to consider restrictions at any airport where a passenger may be transferring, as the rules may not be the same across all legs of the journey.
When the technology was introduced at London City Airport back in April, chief operating officer Alison FitzGerald told the BBC: “The level of processing now through the X-ray is even more secure than it was previously and the machine has the ability to differentiate between a non-dangerous and a dangerous liquid.”
The technology was installed at Jersey Airport in July. Jersey Airport’s Head of Security, Maria Le Tiec, told ITV: “We are pleased to have installed two of the three X-ray machines in time for the airport’s peak summer period.
“Work will continue to install the remaining X-ray machine, which should go live in mid-August. Full body scanners are scheduled for introduction by October 2023.”
The day after the installation, issues with one of the machines meant some passengers had to use the old machines, and therefore the old restrictions as well.
Edinburgh Airport has made an order for new scanners, which are set to be installed in 2024. Edinburgh Airport chief operating officer Adam Wilson told the BBC: “Safety is always paramount and by moving forward with these innovative and next generation scanners, we will maintain those high security standards while helping passengers move through the airport quicker.”
Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association said: “Implementing this technology should not come with a big bill. In fact, simplified processes should deliver significant efficiencies.”
“Speedy deployment should be possible. The technology has already been used successfully and for a long time at various airports across the world with measurable improvements to the passenger experience.”
It is hoped that even more technological developments in the future will greatly reduce the need for lengthy and time-consuming security checks.