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When will UK airports scrap the 100ml liquids rule?

Photo of Anna HardyPhoto of Anna Hardy
By Anna Hardy

9 December 2022 | Updated 11 April 20244 min read

Selective focused shot of a luggage security x-ray machine with the screen showing luggages inside an x-ray scanning and a security guard in the background with a long queue of passengers.

The days of overpriced mini toiletries and long airport security queues could soon be over! Say goodbye to squeezing your favourite shampoo into tiny bottles – the 100ml liquid rule in hand luggage is on its way out thanks to some cool new scanning tech.

But while smaller airports like London City, Teesside, Birmingham, and Newcastle are on schedule to implement the new technology, major airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, and Manchester, won't be ready by the June 2024 deadline. Delays could last up to a year, so if you're flying from a major UK hub this summer, be prepared to stick to the 100ml rule and separate your liquids and laptops as usual.

Still wondering how this will affect your next trip? Here's all you need to know about the changes and what they mean for you.

What does it mean for passengers?

The changes will mean you can carry any amount of liquid in your hand luggage – a freedom passengers haven’t had since 2006 when the restrictions were first introduced as an anti-terrorism measure. This rule relaxation is already a reality at London City Airport and will be rolled out at other UK airports throughout 2024 and 2025.

As it stands, liquids over 100ml are among the items that cannot be carried in hand luggage. The current rules also limit the amount of individual liquid items to a maximum of ten per person, all of which must fit in one 20cm x 20cm clear plastic bag. However, with the policy update, you’ll be able to carry what you need onboard, including full-sized toiletries, make-up, and bottled drinks – a glimpse at greater freedom when planning and packing your short-haul luggage.

It is worth noting that airline hand luggage allowances remain unchanged. As always, it will pay to check the hand luggage size and weight restrictions before loading up your bags with heavy full-sized shampoos and lotions.

How will it work?

New 3D baggage screening equipment will replace the older 2D machines. These advanced CT scanners produce a high-resolution 3D scan, allowing for accurate inspection of liquids without their removal from bags.

The new technology is already proving a game changer for airport security and enhancing passenger experience.

What does it mean for airports?

The changes could significantly reduce queuing times in airport security. Currently, removing items for scanning causes delays. With the new technology, there will be no need to separate liquids from luggage or contain them within a plastic bag, benefiting both queuing time and the environment.

Will this be the case at all airports?

The new 3D scanners are being tested at major UK airports, with the aim to roll them out by 2024. Heathrow, however, will not meet this deadline due to structural issues and will delay its implementation until mid-2025.

Shannon Airport in Ireland and London City Airport and Teesside International in the UK have already adopted this technology.

When will it take effect?

The Department for Transport has mandated that the older screening technology must be replaced by mid-2024. However, Heathrow's upgrade is expected by mid-2025. Leeds Bradford Airport anticipates completing their installation by February 2024.

While the 100ml rule is still in place at some airports, notably Heathrow, it’s important to stay updated as changes roll out.

Which airports have already rolled out the new scanners?

London City Airport and Teesside International Airport have already implemented the new scanners.

Why is there a delay at the UK's largest airports?

The delays at major UK airports are directly linked to the delayed rollout of new security scanners, which are essential for lifting the 100ml liquid restriction in hand luggage.

Initially, airports were mandated to install these scanners by 2022, but that deadline was later moved to June 2024. However, a combination of factors has caused further delays. Installing these high-tech, heavy scanners requires significant construction work, including potential floor reinforcement. Airports are facing supply chain issues that make this process even slower. Additionally, major airports like Heathrow, Gatwick, and Manchester have many security lanes, and the logistical challenge of installing scanners across all of them without disrupting passenger flow has led to extensions being granted.

The government is handling extensions on an individual airport basis, as the pace of installation varies, meaning the delay for some passengers could be as long as a year.

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