Passengers boarding flights from UK airports will no longer have to adhere to 100ml hand luggage liquid limits, after the Government ordered all airports to roll-out a new generation of high-tech 3D security scanners.
Airports across the UK were originally given a deadline of 2022 to roll out the tech, but this was later pushed back to June 2024. Some smaller airports have already introduced the tech, but it has emerged that a number of the UK’s bigger airlines could miss this summer’s deadline.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 100ml liquid rule changes, what it means for your next holiday, and which airports have already rolled out the new technology.
Why does the 100ml liquid limit exist?
The in-flight liquid limit was introduced in 2006 after British police foiled an Islamist terror plot to detonate explosives on transatlantic flights. They planned to smuggle liquid explosives disguised as soft drinks in their hand luggage, in what would have been the deadliest terror attack since 9/11. After the foiled plot, the Government raised the terror threat from “severe” to “critical” and as a precautionary measure banned hand luggage on all planes.
The hand luggage allowance was soon relaxed, but the liquid ban remained – not just in Britain but in countries around the world. To this day, you cannot get through UK airport security checks with any liquids over 100ml in volume, and any that do meet regulations must be sealed in a transparent resealable bag. But that is all changing.
When will airports scrap the 100ml liquid rule?
New CT X-Ray technology means that airports will be able to scan liquids within hand luggage, providing security staff with a detailed 3D image of the contents rather than the existing 2D images. Using this new technology and “highly advanced threat detection algorithms”, potentially dangerous liquids will be flagged up for further checks. This means that passengers will be able to travel with up to two litres per person of liquids and gels in their bags, and they will no longer need to place laptops and other electronic devices on a separate tray.
Already a number of airports, including Miami International Airport, Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome and Schiphol in Amsterdam, have started making use of the tech, and the UK Government has given airports until June 2024 to upgrade their screening equipment. Some UK airports have undergone trials over the past year, so passengers may have seen the new scanners in action already.
Which airports have already deployed the new scanners?
In early March, City Airport revealed it would be the first to scrap the 100ml liquid limit in time for the Easter Holidays. However, Teesside International Airport quietly pipped them to the post, rolling out two cutting-edge scanners which enable passengers to board flights to destinations including Dalaman, Alicante, Amsterdam and Corfu without removing liquid miniatures from their bags. Since Schiphol has also deployed the new scanners, this means that a passenger can now complete an entire return flight without any 100ml liquid limits.
John Strickland, aviation consultant and analyst, said: “This will be a great reduction in stress for passengers, reducing times for security checks and helping flight punctuality. From the airport’s point of view, it will leave more opportunity to improve revenues in retail and food outlets if passengers have more time and are more relaxed.”
How are the other airports getting on with rolling out the tech?
Despite all airports agreeing to a June 2024 deadline, as set by the Government, it appears that early 2025 might be a more realistic roll-out date for some of the bigger airports.
Heathrow: “Our teams are focused on delivering the Programme as quickly as practically possible, we already have new lanes in T2, T5 and T3. Heathrow has more security lanes than all other UK airports and so installing the new lanes across the whole airport was always going to be complex. Other large UK airports face similar challenges, but their transitions will still be less complex.”
Gatwick: “London Gatwick will have made significant progress installing state of the art next generation security scanners by June 2024 in both terminals. We currently plan to have completed the major logistical operation required to install the remaining scanners in Q1 2025, after the busy summer peak period has concluded.”
Manchester (also East Midlands and London Stansted): “We are currently rolling out the new technology lane-by-lane at Manchester and London Stansted airports, with several new lanes already in operation. Work is also underway on major construction projects at both Manchester and East Midlands airports to expand the size of the terminals to accommodate the new equipment. This will see the new scanners in place on a large number of our security lanes by June 2024, with the full completion of the programme expected the following year.”
Some airports, such as Newcastle and Liverpool, say they will have the scanners ready ahead of the deadline. Luton, Aberdeen, Southampton, Glasgow and Bristol say they will meet the June 2024 deadline, while Edinburgh said: “We will have a number of these in place for the majority of passengers to use by June.”
What do these delays mean for my holiday?
Rory Boland, travel editor at Which?, has warned that the staggered introduction of the new scanners could lead to confusion at the UK’s airports this summer: “We’re now going to go into a situation where different [UK] airports have different rules, so at some places you will need to get the liquids out in advance, at others you won’t,” he told the BBC.
“You only need a couple of passengers to not be prepared to end up having to wait an extra 10, 20, 30 minutes.
“It is disappointing that we’re in a situation just months ahead of the peak travel period... and major airports aren’t ready.”
A final warning for passengers
If travelling to an overseas airport that does not have the relevant technology, passengers will not be able to take their oversized liquids in their hand luggage on the return leg. If you have not paid for a checked-in bag, this means you will have no choice but to shower yourself with perfume, slather your body with suncream, and leave whatever remains behind. That, or distribute your liquids into many little 100ml containers.
As it stands, a fraction of the EU’s 347 airports are using the new technology, and the decision to expand liquid allowances on flights is a governmental issue, meaning that the majority of passengers will have to wait a while to feel the full benefits of the rule change.