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Liquid restriction unlikely to be lifted

Airlines and airport operators including BAA are calling for the restriction on liquids in hand luggage to be lifted after the verdict in the liquid bombs trial, but it is unlikely that this will happen soon.

New rules on carrying liquids in hand luggage came in after a group of British Muslims were arrested and accused of using soft drinks bottles disguising liquid bombs in order to blow up transatlantic planes in August 2006.

Since then passengers have not been able to carry any kind of liquid, including gels, pastes and creams, in containers larger than 100ml. When the liquids restriction was first imposed it caused chaos at airports and long queues at security as passengers were unsure about what they could carry in their hand baggage. There is still widespread confusion and misunderstanding today.

Airports have had to take on extra security staff in order to inspect carry on luggage, and the extra security checks have inevitably led to airport delays particularly at peak holiday periods.

The UK’s largest airport operator BAA, which runs eight airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, had to take on an extra 3,000 security staff. The cost to the airport and airline industry of the liquids restrictions is put at hundreds of millions of pounds so it is easy to see why the industry is keen for the restrictions to be lifted.

Some airport operators, including BAA, now have security screening machines that can detect liquids in hand luggage, but the liquids still have to be examined manually to see if they are dangerous. The restrictions on liquids in hand luggage are likely to remain in place until the technology is able to spot the harmful liquids.

Virgin Atlantic is one of the airlines which believes the time is right to look at the restrictions on carrying liquids in hand luggage. "We have been calling for a review of the rules for a long time, along with many other airlines and airport operators," Virgin’s director of communications, Paul Charles, told The Independent.

But in a statement the Department for Transport said: "The court case has proven that a generic capability exists to create liquid bombs from domestic items. Aircraft could be vulnerable to such devices so we are right to continue to require restrictions for liquids carried as hand luggage”.

Written by: Nick Purdom