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UK Airports to Drop Liquid and Laptop Restrictions

Strict rules over carry-on liquids and laptops—which have been in place in the U.K. since 2006—are set to be scrapped in 2024

by Lauren Smith

December 16, 2022

Photo: Airport queue in Guagzhou, China. Courtesy of Hiurich Granja / Unsplash

All major U.K. airports have been ordered to install high-tech 3D luggage scanners by June 2024, eliminating the need to restrict liquids in carry-on luggage and remove electrical items for separate screening.

The changes, announced by the U.K. Department for Transport, are the biggest shakeup of aviation security regulations in decades and will relieve many passengers.

Currently, liquids, such as beverages, shampoo, sunscreen, and toothpaste, are restricted to 100 milliliters (ml) or less and must be kept in clear plastic bags. Passengers must also remove large electronics such as laptops and tablets from their luggage so they can be separately scanned.

These requirements have been a headache for passengers, with many forced to ditch water bottles and buy toiletries at their destination. In addition, travelers’ failure to abide by the rules is one of the most significant causes of delays at airport security.

The liquid cap has been in place since November 2006, after British police uncovered a terrorist plot to hide explosives in drink bottles and blow up as many as ten planes traveling from the U.K. to the U.S.

Advanced scanners will make those restrictions redundant, at least in the U.K. Computed tomography (CT) scanners similar to those used in hospitals will replace conventional X-rays at all major U.K. airports and give staff better views of bag contents.

Photo: Courtesy of Marissa Grootes / Unsplash

In the U.K., that means passengers can carry liquids of up to 2 liters and won’t have to unload their gadgets, authorities say. British transport secretary Mark Harper said, “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.”

“By 2024, major airports across the U.K. will have the latest security tech installed, reducing queueing times, improving the passenger experience, and most importantly detecting potential threats,” he said.

“Of course, this won’t happen straight away – this is going to take two years to be fully implemented. Until then, passengers must continue following the existing rules and check before traveling.”

While airports have until June 2024 to install the new equipment, some will do so more quickly. For example, London City Airport (LCY) has already trialed advanced baggage scanners at one security lane and will introduce them in all lanes by April 2023.

The rule changes will follow several test runs of the advanced security equipment at U.K. airports, including London Heathrow (LHR), beginning in 2018.

It’s still being determined if other countries will follow the U.K.’s lead and relax airport security regulations. Although similar scanning equipment is already used at some airports in the United States and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS), those countries still need to change their policies.