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Are UK airports really on track to scrap the 100-milliliter liquid rule in 2024? Here’s what we know

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Some of the largest U.K. airports are currently set to miss the 2024 government-set deadline to install new CT security scanners. What does this mean for the 100-milliliter liquid rule?

The U.K. government had previously challenged U.K. airports to install new CT scanners by 2022, but the timeline was later pushed back to June 2024.

Once the new high-tech scanners are installed across U.K. airports, travelers are expected to also see the relaxation of the current 100-milliliter liquid rule and the need to remove laptops and other electronic items from hand luggage when passing through security.

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Will UK airports meet the June deadline?

Due to the logistics of fully rolling out the scanners, it’s highly likely that many of the U.K.’s largest airports will miss the deadline of June.

“London Gatwick will have made significant progress installing state of the art next generation security scanners by June 2024 in both terminals,” a London Gatwick Airport (LGW) spokesperson told TPG. “We currently plan to have completed the major logistical operation required to install the remaining scanners in Q1 2025, after the busy summer peak period has concluded.”

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It’s a similar situation with London Stansted Airport (STN), Manchester Airport (MAN) and East Midlands Airport (EMA), which are all managed by Manchester Airports Group.

“We are currently rolling out the new technology lane-by-lane at Manchester and London Stansted airports, with several new lanes already in operation,” a spokesperson for MAG said. “This will see the new scanners in place on a large number of our security lanes by June 2024, with the full completion of the program expected the following year.”

To coincide with the security upgrade, both Manchester and East Midlands airports are undergoing construction projects to expand the size of their terminals to accommodate the new equipment.

Related: Heathrow passengers can now pre-book free security time slots

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The U.K.’s largest airport, London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), was unable to provide comment for this article. However, it is TPG’s understanding that the airport has invested about 1 billion British pounds (approximately $1.27 billion) to revamp its current security systems to meet the deadline this summer.

Currently, the new scanners are already in use at LHR in some terminals, including terminals 2, 3 and 5. Elsewhere at the London hub, the security areas for British Airways’ First Wing area and Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Wing in Terminal 3 have seen recent temporary closures to make way for the installation of the new technology.

According to a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson, the Upper Class Wing security is set to reopen between Feb. 22 and 28. Meanwhile, the British Airways First Wing security area will reportedly remain closed for around four months.

Other airports, however, are making much better progress with the rollout of the new security equipment. Both London City Airport (LCY) and Teesside International Airport (MME) are already using the new scanners.

Elsewhere, a spokesperson for London Luton Airport (LTN) confirmed that the hub was aiming for, and is currently on track to meet, the deadline. “We are aiming for, and expect to be ready, in time for the June deadline,” the spokesperson said.

Will the 100-milliliter rule still be relaxed in June?

Despite the delays at some U.K. hubs, the U.K. Department for Transport has not moved its current deadline of June and is still working toward this date. However, where appropriate, the government may allow certain airports slightly longer to comply and fully install the scanners.

Due to security reasons, the Department for Transport was unable to confirm with TPG which airports are on track to introduce the technology by June 1. TPG understands that regardless of whether every airport has updated its security scanners by the deadline, the ones that have are expected to be able to relax the 100-milliliter rule June 1.

“The U.K. has some of the most robust aviation security measures in the world and this cutting-edge technology will enhance security and boost the passenger experience,” a Department for Transport spokesperson said. “We are in regular contact with airports as they move towards the June 2024 deadline for upgrading their screening equipment and processes.”

Bottom line

There have been multiple recent reports that the U.K.’s proposed relaxation of the 100-milliliter liquid rule could be delayed further until 2025. TPG understands that this is not wholly correct and that if airports meet the June 2024 deadline to install the scanners, we will see the rules shift at those airports. Overall, it seems most likely that this will be the case at many of the smaller U.K. airports, with many larger hubs following suit later in 2024 and early 2025.

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