Last-minute Government U-turn on liquid limits in hand luggage

Crowds queue at Birmingham Airport over the recent bank holiday weekend.
-Credit: (Image: Lucy Kenneally / SWNS)

In a sudden change of plans, the Government has revised the rules concerning the quantity of liquids passengers can carry in their hand luggage when departing from UK airports. The latest directive stipulates that all passengers leaving the UK are now restricted to carrying only 100ml of liquids, pastes and gels in their hand luggage until further notice.

This announcement follows the recent approval given to some airports to allow passengers to carry up to two litres of liquids in their hand luggage, thanks to the installation of new CT scanners.

As per previous regulations, passengers will need to ensure their hand luggage liquids are contained within a single clear plastic bag, which must be removed from their hand luggage before being put through the security scanner. Any liquids exceeding 100ml will need to be placed into hold luggage.

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The Department for Transport (DfT) clarified that this rule change would only affect passengers travelling from London City, Newcastle, Leeds Bradford, Aberdeen, Southend and Teesside airports - as these were the only airports that had installed the scanners in time for the previous June 1 introduction.

However, the confusion over the applicable rules has resulted in numerous airports facing security delays since the start of June. Passengers at Birmingham Airport have been queuing for up to two and a half hours to get through departures, with many forced to wait outside in the rain.

The airport has attributed these delays to the installation of scanners and passengers arriving too early.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport (DfT) stated: "From 00.01 on Sunday 9 June 2024, 100ml restrictions on liquids will temporarily be reintroduced for passengers travelling from six regional airports where Next Generation Security Checkpoints (NGSC) are in full operation.

"This temporary move is to enable further improvements to be made to the new checkpoint systems and will only affect a small number of passengers. For most passengers, security measures will remain unchanged."

This unexpected reversal comes after multiple airports experienced severe delays at security due to a higher amount of liquids being rejected than anticipated. Over the weekend, Nick Barton, chief executive of Birmingham Airport, said: "The rules that we have been adhering to since March are now very clear in that only liquids, pastes and gels up to 100ml can be carried through in hand luggage.

"Since opening our new security area, and despite being one of the first UK airports to comply, we have been limited on the use of our multi-million-pound equipment due to an outstanding regulatory restriction meaning we had to limit liquids to 100ml. This rule has now been implemented nationwide.

"Despite the 100ml rule still being in place, we continually have non-compliant bags with liquids over the allowance which has led to inefficiencies of our equipment and resulted in extended queuing time for customers.

"It is now imperative that all customers comply with the nationwide rule to ensure a smoother and simpler transition through the airport. A non-compliant bag with liquids over 100ml can add up to 20 minutes to each passenger's journey through security. All travelling customers should check their hand luggage to ensure it complies with this restriction."

Birmingham Airport is one of the few UK airports that met the Government deadline of June 1. However, due to this regulatory restriction being placed on it previously, it has been unable to use its equipment to its full capability.

Now all airports, even if they had gained regulatory approval, now have to enforce the previous liquids rule that has been in place since 2006.