Passenger confusion over airport liquids rules ‘will cause delays’

Confusion over liquid restrictions at airport security will lead “a lot of customers” to arrive unprepared and risk delays this summer, a leading tour operator has warned.

Sunvil managing director Chris Wright issued the warning at the Abta Aviation Forum in London last week, saying: “There has been some excitement about not having the 100ml restrictions on liquids and that is not now the case.

“You could have issues on outbound flights.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced delays of up to a year to its June 1 deadline for airports to install the latest security scanners earlier this month, having previously announced the deadline would mark the end of 100ml restrictions on liquids in air passengers’ carry-on bags.

Wright said: “We’re trying to find out which airports are ready and which aren’t.”

But he warned: “There are going to be a lot of customers rock up at an airport unprepared and when people are not prepared it causes delays.”

Peter Campbell, head of public affairs at Airports UK – formerly the Airport Operators Association – said: “We recognise there is a potential information deficit.

“While we’ve been negotiating with ministers on alleviations [to the June 1 deadline] we’ve also been talking to the Department for Transport about information to passengers.

“We’ll be advising passengers to keep checking with their airport whether they have brought in the next generation technology, and if passengers are unsure to stick to the 100ml rules.”

He argued passengers should “also be aware that many places they will be travelling to won’t have the scanners in place and stick to the 100ml rules”.

Campbell said the message this summer would be: “Stick to the 100ml liquid rules and you can’t go wrong.”

Transport secretary Mark Harper announced the deadline of June 1 2024 for airports to install the latest 3D or computer tomography (CT) security scanners in December 2022, claiming it would mean the end of tiny toiletries.

The Department for Transport announced up to 12 months’ extension of the deadline for an unspecified number of airports on April 4.

This followed months of lobbying by airports warning they would not be ready in time and that sticking to the deadline risked chaos.

It’s understood that none of the UK’s biggest airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Stansted – will be wholly ready by June 1, although Luton and London City plus a handful of smaller airports will be or have been for some time.

A number of issues have caused the delay. The scanners are difficult to procure because there are only two suppliers in the world.

They are also expensive, large and sufficiently heavy that many airports have been required to undertake structural work, install new lifts and change the lay-out of security areas.

The scanners take time to install, requiring the closure of security lanes, and staff must be trained to use them and to identify the liquids and electronic items which will no longer be required to be removed from cabin bags.

The difficulty of installing the scanners during busy periods mean no further work on this is likely before the end of the summer flying season at the end of October.

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