Powders to be banned from hand luggage at UK airports

Stranded travellers sit with their luggage outside the departure area of Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 after British Airways flights were cancelled are seen at Heathrow Airport in west London on May 27, 2017. Photo: AFP

In a move to improve airport security, powders such as make-up, coffee and spices will be banned from hand luggage on flights leaving the UK.

This may mean more lines and disruption for travelers. The move will follow in the footsteps of Australia, New Zealand and the US, where passengers were told last month to treat powders in the same way they would liquids, placing them into Ziploc bags for separate scanning.

Government plans for UK airports could see travelers restricted to 12 ounces (340 grams) of powder on flights, before being subjected to extra screening, reported The Telegraph.

The measures have been introduced in response to a foiled ISIS plot to carry an explosive on board an Etihad flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi last July. The would-be terrorists were stopped at check-in.

A spokesperson for the UK department of transport, which says it keeps airport security under constant review, would not confirm the plans but told the newspaper: “It is for each country to determine its own security measures based on its own assessments. We work closely with all our international partners to keep aviation security under constant review.”

There are concerns the new rules will cause confusion and delays at airports. In the US, there have been reports of passengers missing flights after being held up at security over the restrictions.

Mils Hills, associate professor in risk, resilience and corporate security at the University of Northampton, said, “In itself, these extra restrictions are not going to create lots of disruption at airport security but it has the potential to feed into general public concerns about the safety of flying.”

The Transport Security Administration (TSA) in the US has also been screening food purchased by passengers to eat on flights. The TSA’s official line is that it is regularly changing security methods to tackle what it describes as an evolving terrorist threat.

“Terrorists are constantly trying to pack explosives into small everyday items,” a TSA spokesperson told Telegraph Travel.

The powder restrictions follow in the same vein as rules governing flying with liquids in hand luggage, introduced in 2006 in response to a foiled terror plot to blow up flights between the UK and North America.

Three British men were convicted for conspiring to assemble improvised explosive devices on board transatlantic jets – devices containing a liquid derived from hydrogen peroxide – and detonate them above the Atlantic.

The new rules caused chaos at airports, with British Airways alone forced to cancel more than 1,500 flights.

Experts have since said the restrictions — which remain in place forbidding liquids, aerosols or gels in containers of more than 100ml — were a knee-jerk reaction.

“It’s not relevant and it should never have been introduced 10 years ago,” said Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, in an interview with Telegraph Travel in 2016.

“All they have succeeded in doing is creating longer queues at checkpoints where screeners are spending all of their time looking for restricted items rather than looking for genuine threats.”