Passengers ‘must be prepared’ for new airport security rules despite delay

The UK’s major airports are set to miss the June deadline for completing installation of advanced security scanners which would end the requirement for all passengers to remove liquids and laptops from cabin bags.

The government announced its intention in December 2022 to lift the 100ml rule on liquids in hand luggage in time for the 2024 peak summer season, setting a deadline of June 1 for airports to have advanced computed tomography (CT) scanners in place which provide 3D images of bags’ contents.

The BBC reported on January 22 that installation of the scanners would not be completed by June, with confirmation of likely delays at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, where the process may run into 2025, although the equipment is in use at these and other UK airports.

The Department for Transport declined to confirm whether the deadline would be met, but an extension is expected to be announced any day.

A leading aviation source said: “It was always going to be challenging to put this amount of equipment in certain airports, particularly in a busy operating environment.

“It’s not just a case of buying new scanners. These scanners are very heavy. Some airports have had to strengthen floors and install new elevators. It’s also about training people to use the scanners.”

The source insisted: “These scanners are first rate. They will mean significantly less pressure on the whole security area and massively speed up the flow of passengers. [But] we need whole terminals ready before the restrictions change.”

In the meantime, the source noted: “The messaging to passengers has not changed – ‘Be prepared to remove your liquids and electronic devices’.

“Passengers will have to do that for quite some time even if their outbound airport has this facility. They need to be aware of the requirements at the other end of the route.”

June will not be the first deadline missed for relaxing the rules on liquids. The government previously told airports in August 2019 to install the equipment by 2022. This was delayed by the pandemic.

As far back as 2011, the Department for Transport confirmed “our intention that the restrictions on liquids will be lifted by 2013” in line with a European Commission ruling.

But airports opposed that deadline, with the head of the Airport Operators Association at the time insisting: “The technology is not mature enough. There are too many false alarms. There are problems with flow rates [and] with different rules for different passengers.”

Restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags were introduced in August 2006 after UK authorities foiled a plot to blow up a US-bound aircraft using liquid explosives in cabin luggage.

An initial ban subsequently gave way to passengers being permitted up to five 100ml-quantities of liquids in a single plastic bag.

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