Heathrow to end ban on liquids in hand luggage

Heathrow Security

Passengers can look forward to shorter queues to get through security at Heathrow airport under plans to permit liquids and laptops being carried through inside hand luggage.

Britain’s busiest airport said that 3D security equipment was being installed throughout the airport in the next three years that would be able to scan bags in more detail.

It will be the first time that the equipment has been used in a British airport and it is expected to cut queueing times in terminals significantly. It will also reduce the amount of plastic used because passengers will not have to place 100ml containers in a separate bag to be individually scanned.

The announcement comes after the publication last year of government figures on queueing times. Passengers at Britain’s biggest airports reported security queues averaging seven minutes, rising to more than ten minutes at some terminals. Passengers at Heathrow reported queues of just over six and a half minutes. Waiting times were cited as the most frustrating part of security checks.

In April we reported that Heathrow was investing in facial recognition technology that would eventually allow passengers to pass through terminals without having to show their passports.

Yesterday the airport, which deals with 80.6 million passengers a year, said that it was also preparing to introduce the new speedier security screening process. The 3D equipment uses the same technology as CT scanners in hospitals and will eventually replace the traditional x-ray scanners that are used now. The airport tested the first CT scanners in 2017 and plans to introduce them across its Heathrow terminals by 2022.

Passengers have been required to remove all liquids from their hand luggage since August 2006, in response to a plot to blow up transatlantic jets using explosive material hidden in soft drinks bottles. It also led to the ban on containers holding more than 100ml of liquid.

Liquids must now be carried in containers in a transparent plastic bag holding no more than a litre in total.

Heathrow said that the 100ml restriction would remain unchanged after the introduction of the new scanners, but passengers would no longer need to remove the containers from their hand luggage. The technology “will be rolled out gradually over the course of the next few years”, the airport said.

CT scanners have already been introduced at airports in the US and part of mainland Europe but Heathrow’s plan is thought to represent the largest installation in the UK.

Chris Garton, chief operating officer at Heathrow, said: “Heathrow has a proud history of investing in making every journey better for our customers and that’s why we’re delighted to be rolling out our new 3D security screening machines.

“This cutting-edge equipment will not only keep the airport safe with the latest technology but will also mean that our future passengers can keep their focus on getting on with their journeys and spend less time preparing for security screening.”