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Q&A: Are the rules on taking liquids through airport security changing?

Teesside and London City airports now allow you to take liquids or gels up to 2 litres through airport security. And, you can leave them in your bag..

by Sharron Livingston


Restrictions are in the process of being eased on taking liquids and toiletries through airport security. When is this likely to happen?

A: Millions of people are forced to pass through airport security every single day. Belts, sometimes shoes, certainly laptops, and liquids –  a total of 10 containers with a maximum of 100 ml of liquid in each in a clear plastic bag – must be placed in trays to be screened. It takes an age and puts a dampener on the whole travel process.

The alternative is to pack toiletries in the hold luggage or to buy whatever you need at airport shops. 

The rules were put into place in 2006 after a foiled terrorist plot but were only supposed to be a temporary measure. Fifteen years later we still have to tolerate the queues and accompanying groans as we shuffle slowly through security as belongings are screened.

With the UK’s eight biggest airlines planning to fly 150mn more passengers a year (imagine 300,000 extra jumbo jets to get the size of it), this status quo becomes unsustainable.

There was a slither of hope in 2019 when former prime minister Boris Johnson talked of easing the rules at some UK airports by 1st December 2022.

However, the Covid pandemic put paid to that. The present prime minister Rish Sunak extended the deadline until June 2024.

What now?

City Airport wanted to be the first to scrap the 100ml liquid limit in time for the Easter Holidays but Teesside International Airport has got there first. Now both airports have put in place two state-of-the-art CT scanners that allow for clearer 3D images, so passengers can go through security without having to take out their liquids from their bags and board their flight to Corfu or Amsterdam unfrazzled.

There is a snag though. On the return journey the airport may not have measures in place, so old rules apply. It could be a problem if you haven’t got checked-in luggage. So use up your liquids or decant into 100ml containers for the return journey.

Happily, Amsterdam’s Schiphol has deployed the new scanners, which means that a passenger flying out from City Airport can now complete an entire return flight carrying liquids up to 2 litres.

UK’s leading airports now must adhere to a deadline of June 2024 to install the necessary equipment to allow passengers to pass through security more smoothly.

Liverpool and Luton airports will follow suit by end of 2023, and Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow have confirmed they are working on technology to meet the 2024 deadline. Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Southampton and Edinburgh confirmed they are on target.

The Department for Transport said:

“Not only will it mean greater convenience for travellers – as people will no longer need to spend time taking items out of their bags – but it will also enhance passenger safety, as security staff will have more detailed images of what people are carrying.”

The 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 UK will have the latest security tech installed, reducing queuing times, improving the passenger experience, and most importantly detecting potential threats.


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 travelling.”

Smart Security

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has long insisted that the present measures are unsustainable. They have an eye on “Smart Security”. The ultimate aim is to wave goodbye pat-downs. Robots may replace sniffer dogs, and iris or facial recognition may find their way into the system some vague time in the future in effect making the physical passport redundant.

It may take a while,  but then again, we have waited 17 years for the aviation industry to finally update the 100ml liquids rule and we still have to wait for the rollout.

What are the current rules?

  • All weapons, whether firearms, knives or explosives, are banned from hand luggage. 
  • Liquids must be stored in containers with 100ml maximum volume, and they must be carried in resealable clear plastic bags – these are handed out at the airport just before security – with a maximum volume of one litre.

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