The British government confirmed on Thursday that it intends to completely overhaul airport security rules within the next two years and will lift the onerous rules that restrict liquids being placed in hand luggage.
The Department for Transport (DfT) says it has set a 2024 deadline for major airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham, to install the latest generation of Computed Tomography (CT) scanners that remove the need to remove liquids and large electronic items from hand luggage.
Some airports have already installed a small number of CT scanners as part of an ongoing trial into the technology, and following a successful review, the government has concluded that the scanners are so good that existing restrictions can be significantly eased.
The current restrictions that have become the bane of travellers around the world were quickly introduced in 2006 after the transatlantic liquid bomb plot was foiled by British and American intelligence services.
The plot identified a massive vulnerability in the airport security regime by smuggling liquid explosives onto commercial jets by masquerading them as bottles of popular soft drinks.
For the last 16 years, the only surefire way to reduce the risk posed by liquid explosives was to limit the number of liquids that passengers could bring with them but CT scanners have been proven to close the liquid’s vulnerability.
CT Scanners work by creating a 3-D image of the contents of luggage and use sophisticated algorithms to detect weapons, explosives and other prohibited items, including liquid explosives.
They are already in use in a number of airports across Europe, as well as the United States, where passengers have enjoyed a simplified pre-flight security regime with no need to remove liquids or electronics from their hand luggage.
The plans by the British government, however, will go one step further and almost completely eliminate liquid restrictions. Under new legislation being introduced to parliament, passengers will be allowed to take up to 2 litres of liquids in their hand luggage.
“The tiny toiletry has become a staple of airport security checkpoints, but that’s all set to change. I’m streamlining cabin bag rules at airports while enhancing security,” commented Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Thursday.
“By 2024, major airports across the UK will have the latest security tech installed, reducing queuing times, improving the passenger experience, and most importantly detecting potential threats,” Harper continued.
Despite the significant cost of installing the new scanners, the aviation industry believes that easing the existing rules will lead to considerable cost savings and saved time for both passengers and staff.
Until all the scanners have been installed, however, the existing liquids restrictions remain in place.
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.