Hand baggage rules set to change … again.jpg

Hand baggage rules set to change … again

FEARS OF widespread confusion for travellers have been prompted by the British Government’s decision to make a fourth change in security procedures at British airports since the terror alert of August 10.

While welcoming the expected relaxation of regulations, Simon Evans of the Air Transport Users’ Council, said passengers needed to be very clearly informed. Since August 10, the regulations on hand luggage have already been changed three times. Initially, travellers were only allowed to take travel documents, but a few days later a small case was allowed. Several days after that, cosmetics were banned.

Under the current regulations, hand luggage is not allowed to exceed 45cm x 35cm x 16cm (17.7in x 13.7in x 6.2in) – about the dimensions of a woman’s medium-sized handbag. There are tough restrictions on taking liquids and toiletries on board.

Many travellers, especially those carrying musical instruments and computers, have experienced difficulties, because they have not wanted to risk checking delicate and valuable items into the hold.

British Airways, Ryanair and other airlines operating from British airports say they have been put at a competitive disadvantage against carriers operating from continental Europe, where there are no such restrictions.

The British government is expected to announce that larger bags, toiletries (including toothpaste) and two bottles of liquids will be allowed through security. The Air Transport Users’ Council, has described the likely change as a positive move, but gave a warning that the new rules needed to be very straightforward, and that decisions on what could be taken through security should not be left to the discretion of security personnel.

A spokeswoman for British Airways agreed that travellers could be confused. “A change is good, but it has to be communicated properly to people before they travel,” she said.

Peter Sherrard, Ryanair’s head of communications, said: “We welcome any removal of the ineffective measures currently in place and the restoration of security to the normal and effective International Air Transport Association (IATA) standard that applies at every other European airport, and on every inbound flight to Britain.”

Although some security experts have argued that limiting the size of hand luggage has done nothing to help combat terrorism, others are in favour of the current rules. David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flight International magazine, said: “If hand baggage is larger, security people have more to screen and this takes longer. If you want big queues, increase the size of bags.”