The limit for taking liquids through airport security is set to be axed in 2024, which means that rules that passengers have to remove laptops from hand luggage, and can only take aboard liquids under 100ml, are all to go within two years.
Major UK airports have been given a deadline of mid-2024 to install more advanced CT security scanners, similar to those used in hospitals, which will enable the change in policy.
People failing to remove items from their bags or travelling with large bottles of liquids and creams is the biggest cause of delays at airport security.
The 100ml rule was introduced in the wake of the foiled Islamist transatlantic terror plot in 2006 in what was believed at the time to be a temporary measure. Terrorists had planned to down seven flights departing from Heathrow using liquid explosives disguised as soft drinks. It would have been al-Qaeda’s largest terror attack in the West since 9/11.
Ministers have been carrying out a review and a formal announcement is expected in the coming weeks, it is understood.
The new 3D baggage screening equipment is being tested at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. The Department for Transport (DfT) has told the UK’s major airports that older screening technology must be replaced in full by the summer of 2024.
Insiders said the change would “prove a gamechanger” with vastly reduced queue times for security and dramatically reduced use of plastic at airports because passengers will no longer be required to have liquids in plastic bags.
“We are slowly rolling them out,” John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow, told The Times. “We have just started the expansion of the security area in Terminal 3 which will have more CT scanners and have a deadline of mid-2024 from the DfT. By then the normal passenger experience will be that liquids stay in bags.”
Boris Johnson announced the trial of the new technology in 2019, but its introduction into airports was delayed by the pandemic, when passenger numbers collapsed.
The CT scanners produce a high-resolution 3D scan of passengers’ bags, allowing operators to inspect a bag from every angle. Older machines produce a 2D image of luggage.
Passengers are currently required to remove tablets, laptops and liquids from their cabin baggage. Liquids must not exceed 100ml and must be in a clear plastic bag.
Airport bosses are concerned passengers will be presented with mixed messages in the run-up to 2024.
“As the scanners become more commonplace it will be the case that in some lanes passengers are told not to take stuff out their bags while in other lanes they will still need to,” an aviation source said. “The 100ml rule will stay in place until the rollout of the new technology is complete and is a decision for the DfT.”
Officials said the policy remains under review. An announcement is expected before Christmas.
The trial of the new technology started at Heathrow in 2019. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary at the time, said it could “mean an end to passengers having to use plastic bags or rationing what they take away with them” if it was successful.
The new technology was rolled out at Shannon airport in Ireland this year, and the 100ml rule was scrapped. The airport said the move has “halved the time our passengers spend going through security screening”.