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Heathrow Airport Baggage and Security

There are numerous security procedures and restrictions in place at Heathrow. It is advised that you understand these before you pack your luggage so that you are prepared before you arrive at the airport.

Body scanners

Body-scanning equipment has been introduced at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 as part of a UK Government move to further strengthen security at airports.

Passengers may be required to undergo the additional screening, having passed through the standard security search process. The Department for Transport requires that all passengers selected for screening must do so and images of passengers are destroyed after being viewed by trained security officers based elsewhere in the airport. The process takes around seven seconds. Anyone refusing to be scanned will be denied access to their flight.

Baggage allowances

Airlines will let you know what their allowances are by various means: If you have a ticket, the hold allowance will be printed on the ticket. Ticket wallets also contain general information about carry on bags. On electronic tickets (e-tickets) baggage allowances are usually on the confirmation notice. Hand luggage allowances are also given on individual airline websites.

Overweight baggage: If your hold baggage is heavier than the allowance, the airline is entitled to charge an excess baggage charge. If your cabin luggage is overweight or too big, you might be asked to check it in to the hold. If doing so takes your hold luggage above your hold baggage allowance, you might have to pay excess baggage charges. The best way to avoid any problems is to stick to the allowances.

Hand luggage: Hand luggage sizes vary but most airlines limit their carry-on bags to a maximum size of 56cm x 45cm x 25cm. A 45" total (height+width+depth) can be used as a basic guideline. The standard allowance typically provides for a bag of up to a certain size plus one 'personal item' - a personal item could be a briefcase, camera, handbag, laptop (in carry bag) or reading matter.

Liquids restriction: Passengers are able to take liquids through security check points again, however, some restrictions still apply. Individual containers of liquids must not exceed a maximum capacity of 100ml.

All containers must be presented for examination to security in a 'single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag'. The re-sealable bag must not exceed a capacity of 1 litre or 20cm x 20cm.

Airport Hand Luggage Limits

Liquids Include:
• All drinks, including water, soup and syrups.
• Creams, lotions, oils, perfumes and make-up including mascara
• Sprays and other pressurized containers such as shaving foam and deodorants
• Toothpastes and other pastes.
• Hair and shower gels.
• Other solutions and items of similar consistency.

Please note: Essential medicines or baby food can be carried on in larger volumes than 100ml, however, these items will be subject to authentication.

Some of the items not to pack in hand luggage:

  • Household cutlery
  • any knives
  • razor blades
  • tools
  • scissors
  • hypodermic syringes
  • knitting needles
  • corkscrews
  • sporting bats

These items are allowed in your hand luggage:

  • - Cellular phones
  • - iPods/mp3 players
  • - Notebook computer
  • - Non-metal nail files
  • - Medication in its original, labeled container
  • - Cane
  • - Umbrella

Pack jewellery, cash and laptop computers, in your carry-on baggage. Put undeveloped film and cameras with film in your carry-on bag. Checked baggage screening equipment will damage undeveloped film.

Heathrow airport security

We all know security measures at UK airports are tight. Seasoned travellers will be aware of the heightened airport security but if you fly less frequently what can you expect to find when you arrive at Heathrow airport?

It is important to give yourself plenty of time for your check in at the airport. For long haul flights the check in is two or three hours prior to your flight. We recommend allowing a little longer. Everything takes longer than it used to at the airport, particularly during peak times. You can expect delays and long queues for check-in and screening. Allow extra time just in case of special circumstances.

Expect to have your bags searched: Carry-on and checked bags are subject to being hand-searched, particularly if the contents can't be seen by the X-ray. Don't wrap gifts until you get there. Any sharp objects in checked baggage should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.

You can avoid setting off the metal detectors by not wearing jewellery clothing, shoes, and accessories that contain metal. Security staff may ask to search you as well as your luggage. These searches are carried out at random so do not be alarmed or offended if you are chosen for searching. Be prepared to be selected for a body scan.

Locked suitcases: When you are travelling from the UK it is generally accepted that you lock your suitcase. You may be called upon open up a bag where the contents are unclear.

If you are flying from the USA the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) asks that bags be left unlocked to make the job of security screeners easier and quicker. The TSA has recently listed on its website ( ) a number of brand names- that have "accepted and recognised locks". These are locks that airport security screeners can open and relock. The list also contains the names of several makes of travel padlocks that screeners can open and relock.

Heathrow travel tips

Plan ahead and try not to pack at the last minute. It only takes one banned item in your carry on or checked baggage to cause delays for you and possibly other passengers.
If you have a wait before your check-in - put your bags in the left luggage (Heathrow airport Left Luggage 
+44 (0)20 8745 4599.). Do a bit of shopping or relax - never leave your luggage unattended at the airport.
If you have the prospect of a long haul flight you can book in at the Heathrow executive airport lounge. Wind down in the lounge after your check-in and security screening.
In emergency situations where there is danger to life or a crime in progress, call 999 - but if you have any non- urgent airport security enquiry or to report a crime that occurred earlier - please contact the Police for Heathrow Airport. Open every day between 6am - 10pm.