Heathrow airport is urging passengers to put all of their liquids into check-in bags rather than trying to get them through security checkpoints in their hand luggage. The measure would hopefully speed up painfully slow queues for security screening but passengers would have to play a lottery as to whether their check-in bags made it to their destination.
In an internal note, the airport told airlines to “enforce their individual hand luggage allowance policies, and wherever possible request passengers to place liquids in hold luggage.”
“This will assist in expedition processing as Security Search and help reduce queue times.”
Cumbersome security checks have been in force at Heathrow since the 2006 Liquid Bomb Plot that saw a group of British terrorists plan a wave of suicide bomb attacks on seven transatlantic flights.
The bombers had planned to conceal their liquid explosives in repurposed drinks bottles which had been designed to look like they were unopened. As the plot was thwarted, immediate restrictions were placed on liquids that passengers could take with them onboard commercial flights.
At Heathrow, those restrictions remain unchanged 16 years later. The liquid rule is one of the main reasons why hand luggage is ‘rejected’ by x-ray screeners and sent for time-consuming additional manual checks.
Like a number of European airports, Heathrow is suffering severe staffing shortages and unlike many jobs, it can take months to security check and then train the security screening staff.
In recent weeks, queues to get through security checkpoints have spilled outside at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. The delays, lasting more than an hour in some cases, are expected to get even worse when school holidays start at the end of July.
To make matters worse, however, passengers are reluctant to check-in any of their bags because Heathrow and its airlines have been struggling to get bags loaded onto flights or deliver them to baggage carousels.
A few weeks ago, a baggage malfunction created a ‘carpet’ of bags outside Terminal 2. On Saturday, a similar scene was unfolding outside Terminal 3 after a different technical problem. Ongoing issues are likely to lead to bags being delayed or lost for the foreseeable future.
To relieve pressure, Heathrow has been urging airlines to axe flights but only British Airways has so far announced radical plans to draw back its short-haul schedule. The airline’s chief executive Sean Doyle has echoed Heathrow’s pleas for other airlines to take slash flights throughout the summer.
On Sunday, Heathrow reported a new issue affecting its baggage system, although it remains to be seen whether the problem can be fixed because it creates a mountain of baggage to build up.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.