Airport hand luggage curbs relaxed

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Hand luggage restrictions at UK airports are to be eased from tomorrow, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced today.

Passengers will be allowed, once more, to carry larger bags on to planes following the reduction in the size of permitted hand luggage introduced last month after the thwarting of an alleged terrorist plot to blow up planes.

However, the ban on all but essential liquids in hand luggage will continue, and passengers will still be restricted to just one carry-on bag.

Musicians with instruments too big to go into hand luggage will now be able to take them on board, although they will have to be screened separately.

The easing of the restrictions on instruments, which have had to be carried in aircraft holds since last month, follows an impassioned plea for leniency by conductor Mark Elder at the Last Night Of The Proms earlier this month.

Initially after the alleged terrorist plot was uncovered, no hand luggage was allowed on planes leaving UK airports - a situation which led to mass cancellations, long delays and huge queues at terminals.

After a few days, smaller bags - with measurements of 45cm x 35cm x 16cm (about 18in x 14in x 6in) - were allowed to be carried on board.

From tomorrow, passengers will be able to take on board bags which conform to the aviation industry-accepted dimensions of 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (about 22in x 18in x 10in).

Laptops and large electrical items will be allowed on board in hand luggage but will have to be taken out of bags for separate screening as has been the practice since last month.

The Government has been intense pressure from airlines to ease restrictions, especially as other European countries have not followed the UK in applying stringent standards.

It has led to the situation where Britons flying abroad are not allowed to pack, for example, a sponge bag or a bottle of water in their hand luggage but are quite at liberty to do so if flying from a European airport back to the UK.

It is has been estimated that the effect of the restrictions has cost the UK economy around £300 million, with British Airways alone suffering £40 million losses, having had to cancel 1,280 flights.

The Department for Transport said today: "The measures we introduced in August were in response to a very real and serious threat which continues. We have always said that we would keep the measures we introduced in August under review."

It added that the changes followed meetings with the aviation industry and consultation with international partners and were designed to "lessen the burden on passengers, while maintaining a rigorous security regime".

The department said: "We will never compromise on the safety of passengers but it is right that we continually strive to strike the right balance between properly robust security and arrangements which minimise the burden on passengers and business.

"These adjustments have been made in the light of a detailed assessment of the measures introduced in August and address that twin aim.

"Passengers should be able to travel as freely as possible but we have no intention of putting their safety at risk. In the meantime, as ever, we will continue to keep our security measures under review.

"We are continuing to work closely with our international partners, both in Europe and more widely, including the European Commission, towards arrangements that are harmonised as far as possible, to help facilitate safe and secure international travel."

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said: "We will never compromise the security of the travelling public. The aim of the measures announced today is to maintain that security while lessening the inconvenience to passengers.

"I am grateful for the forbearance passengers have shown and assure them that we will keep these regulations under review."