Home News A reconsideration of worldwide airport bag restrictions

A reconsideration of worldwide airport bag restrictions

Published on 09/09/2009

London -- The 2006 transatlantic bomb plot sparked draconian restrictions at airports in Europe and North America that are still affecting passengers from around the world.

However, aviation industry bodies are considering whether the rules are still the most effective way to manage the security threat posed by carrying liquids on board.

The limits on liquids that can be taken into the cabin in hand luggage stem directly from the reaction to the plot, foiled by British police in August 2006.

Current rules state that travellers can only carry 100-millilitre containers (three US fluid ounces) onto an aircraft and the bottles or tubs must fit inside a re-sealable, clear bag measuring 20 centimetres (7.5 inches) square.

The plot involved flights from London to cities in North America.

Once it was foiled, British airports immediately banned all liquids from being taken on board, while US and Canadian airport authorities followed suit, causing chaos and long queues at airports.

Extra staff were deployed to help speed passengers through the new system, with the entire clampdown deemed to have cost hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide to impose.

North American airports soon allowed very small toiletries to be taken on board, while Britain relaxed its measures and joined in with the cross-European Union measures which remain in place today.

Those EU restrictions were imposed in November 2006, leaving unprepared passengers infuriated at having their liquid belongings confiscated and binned.

Creams, hair gels, pressurised containers and mascara, for example, must now be taken on board in a transparent re-sealable plastic bag, though larger quantities of liquids can be carried in checked-in luggage.

Medicine and baby foods are exempt, as are drinks and perfumes bought at airside shops before boarding.

The EU rules apply at any airport within the 27-member bloc, plus Albania, Iceland, Kosovo, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland and Ukraine, irrespective of the destination.

British Airways said it now wanted to see the same rules to be applied worldwide.

"We always support rigorous security screening on the ground," a spokeswoman said. "It is important that security procedures are harmonised internationally to avoid confusion and make compliance easier. It would be unhelpful to maintain a liquid ban at some airports and not at others."

A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said the British carrier thought the restrictions on hand luggage and liquids should be kept under constant review.

"With better technology coming on stream, it is appropriate to review the restrictions to ensure passengers are able to make as easy a journey as possible through airport security checks," she said.

Meanwhile the British Air Transport Association industry body said it wanted air travel to be made "easier" for passengers who still feel "hard done by."

Said a spokesman: "We are keen to see more flexibility on the carriage of liquids but that will depend on the security regime being able to deal with that.”

Robin Millard/AFP/Expatica