Liquids ban should not be lifted next year, say UK airports
British airport operators claim plans to scrap limits on liquids in hand luggage by 2013 will cause chaos and confusion
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 31 May 2012 19.11 BST
A European ban on airline passengers carrying liquids in hand luggage should not be lifted as planned next year, British airport operators have warned, because a relaxation will trigger “chaos” in terminals.
Brussels has set a deadline of April 2013 to scrap regulations that have become the bane of air travellers around the world, limiting liquids in carry-on luggage to containers no larger than 100ml. But the Airport Operators Association, which represents Heathrow and other major airports in the UK, said passenger security should take priority over “arbitrary” deadlines.
“The latest significant trials show that the technology is still not mature enough to handle the vast numbers of passengers travelling through our airports,” said Darren Caplan, chief executive of the AOA. “If implemented as things stand, there would be chaos and confusion in airport central search areas. As well as being bad for passengers, we believe that it will put security at risk.”
Airport scanner companies argue that the technology exists to detect liquids in carry-on luggage, which has spurred speculation in some quarters that airports’ main concern is over cost. However, Heathrow’s owner, BAA, said last night that it supported the AOA’s call.
The Department for Transport said: “We are working with the European Commission, member states, industry and international partners to assess the feasibility of meeting the April 2013 deadline. As with all security procedures, the safety and security of the travelling public is paramount and we will not allow it to be compromised.”
The liquids regulations were imposed in 2006 after the foiling of a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners travelling from Heathrow to North America. Introduced overnight at the height of the summer travel season, the regulations caused chaos and initially brought Heathrow to a near-standstill.
The restrictions forced UK airports to spend at least £100m on extra security lanes and guards, while passengers endured long queues at security gates.
At one point Heathrow was confiscating 2,000 tonnes of liquids at departure gates on an annual basis. The resulting outcry from passengers has seen the European commission and European parliament attempt to rescind the rules, but deadlines have been missed amid aviation industry protests and concerns over whether the screening technology is ready.