Heathrow Airport has been ordered to lift strict restrictions on the amount of liquids that passengers can pack in their hand luggage within two years as part of a government ultimatum that could dramatically improve the experience of passengers flying from Europe’s busiest airport.
Sources have told The Times that the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has given major airports across the country until mid-2024 to buy and install the latest generation of hand luggage scanners that eliminate the need for passengers to remove liquids or electronic items, including laptops, from their bags.
The Computed Tomography (CT) scanners create a 3-D image of the contents of luggage and use sophisticated algorithms to detect weapons, explosives and other prohibited items, including liquid explosives.
CT Scanners are already in use in a number of airports across Europe, as well as the United States, where passengers have faced a far simplified pre-flight security regime.
The move to Computed Tomography technology across British airports was first announced by former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but the rollout was put on the back burner at the outset of the pandemic when travel demand plummeted and airports started to rack up huge losses.
With airport operators now back in the black, however, the DfT has reportedly declared mid-2024 as the deadline for when this technology should be in place at major UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
The process of scanning a bag in a CT scanner is not necessarily any quicker than a traditional x-ray machine – in fact, it can be slower because the operator has to take more time to review the image – but the overall security process should be much more streamlined.
Long queues to get through airport security checkpoints this summer have been partly blamed on travellers failing to comply with liquid restrictions or forgetting to remove electronic items from their bags. This will not longer be something that passengers have to worry about.
Earlier this week, Emirates Airline told its passengers flying from Heathrow not to pack any liquids in their hand luggage in an attempt to reduce delays at the airport’s checkpoints.
Strict restrictions on liquids in hand luggage have been in place for more than 16 years following the 2006 transatlantic liquid bomb plot that transformed the pre-flight security experience.
Until the new scanners are fully rolled out, passengers are expected to only carry liquids in containers that contain no more than 100 ml and which all fit in a single transparent and resealable bag that is no larger than 20cm x 20cm.
Heathrow is already trialling some CT scanners, but the restrictions on liquids remain in place until the DfT finalised a review of the effectiveness of the scanners.
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.