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UK airports to scrap restrictions on liquids and electronics

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Passengers passing through UK airports will be able to ditch their “tiny toiletries” and leave liquids and electronics inside their cabin bags under changes to security rules to be introduced over the next two years.

The Department for Transport on Thursday said airports had until June 2024 to install new technology to scan passengers’ hand luggage, as it brought forward new legislation to streamline security processes.

Under the current rules, passengers have to remove laptops, tablets and liquids from their cabin bags, and can carry only liquids of 100ml or less.

Mark Harper, transport secretary, said the changes would mean people no longer had to turn to miniature bottles when travelling with 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.”

The 100ml limit on liquids will rise to two litres, while electronics will be scanned in people’s bags using new machinery. The old rules will apply until new scanners are in place, which will take up to two years.

In the summer, airport bosses said an unusually high number of passengers were forgetting to take liquids out of their bags as they caught their first flights since the start of the pandemic in 2020, which contributed to delays and disruption.

“This investment in next-generation security by the UK’s airport operators will provide a great step forward for UK air travel, matching the best in class around the world,” said Christopher Snelling, policy director at industry group The Airport Operators Association.

The rules on travelling with liquids were introduced in 2006 in the UK following a terrorist threat, and were designed to stop people carrying liquid explosives on to planes.

They were part of a wider tightening of security procedures in aviation in the years following the September 2001 terror attacks in the US. But government and industry are confident that new technologies can streamline the current onerous security processes.

Harper said the changes would make people safer because the new scanners would allow security staff to have a more detailed image of what people are carrying.

The new X-ray technology offers a 3D image of what is inside a bag, as well as deploying “highly advanced threat detection algorithms”, the government said.

The UK is behind several countries in installing the new scanners, however. Similar technology is already in place at airports in the US and Amsterdam’s Schiphol.

The changes in the UK were originally due to take place by the end of this year, but were delayed because of the pandemic.

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