Airline Liquids Ban could end with new scanners
New scanners could end airline liquids ban
The ban on passengers taking liquids on planes could be lifted within a year after ministers approved a new generation of airport scanners.
By David Millward, Transport Editor
11:30PM BST 06 Apr 2012
Devices should be installed at every airport in Britain and across the EU by the end of next April, after they were approved by the Department for Transport.
Although passengers will still have to remove bottles from their cabin luggage for inspection, they will no longer be banned from carrying containers of fluid larger than 100ml.
This means that travellers will no longer face the frustration of having expensive toiletries confiscated at security gates.
They should also be allowed to bring their own water bottles onto planes.
A complete ban on carrying liquids onto an aircraft was introduced in August 2006 after a terrorist plot to down transatlantic aircraft, by mixing the liquid components of a bomb on board, was thwarted.
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Although it was eased to allow passengers to bring liquids in containers up to 100 ml, the restrictions caused huge inconvenience to passengers.
According to Stansted Airport its security staff confiscate enough liquids to fill 20 household waste bins a day.
Passengers have surrendered bottles containing anything from Marmite to expensive vintage champagne, with one survey estimating the value of liquids at British airports at £10 million a day.
It had been hoped that the ban would be lifted across the European Union last year. But the plans were scrapped following representations by a number of Governments that the screening equipment was not fit for purpose.
There were fears that inadequate scanners could, by triggering false alarms, cause havoc at airports making delays worse rather than better.
The new generation of scanners have already been tested at a number of airports as part of trials coordinated European Commission’s Liquids Working Group.
Those which are understood to have been approved include a scanner produced by Cobalt Light Systems, an Oxfordshire based company.
Known as the Insight 100, it is capable of scanning bottles for explosives in less than 10 seconds. Tests have shown both a high level of accuracy and a negligible number of false alarms.
Another device, produced by Smiths Detection, known as the aTix, uses x-Ray technology to scan a bottle and its contents. It is capable of identifying a potentially dangerous liquid within seconds from its chemical make up.
There are already more than 200 scanners deployed at UK airports – including around 80 at Heathrow – which will be brought into use once the ban is finally lifted.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport confirmed that it had already approved devices and was working with the EU to meet the new deadline for lifting the restrictions, April 29 2013.
“However, we are equally aware of the need to ensure the passenger experience is as smooth as possible when passing through these important checks.
“That is why we have an active programme of research and development to explore new technologies and see how they can best be deployed while still maintaining the same high levels of security.”
There could be further good news for passengers with an end in sight to the requirement to remove laptops from hand luggage for inspection, one of the main causes of security delays.
Equipment was successfully tested for 18 months at Heathrow, before being removed.
Now, however, the Transportation Security Administration in the United States is pushing for the restriction to be eased, with the EU expected to follow suit.