Simon Calder: New rules on liquids need solid foundations

The man who pays his way

Bringing home tequila from Mexico has always struck me as a questionable pursuit: not just because of the health impact of drinking distilled agave in any quantity, but also because carrying large bottles of flammable liquids half-way across the world has never made sense to me. So when, nearly five years ago, the "liquids ban" came into effect because of a terrorist plot involving bomb ingredients concealed in drinks containers, the one beneficial side-effect was to reduce the volume of spirits that were flown around the world.

However, duty-free vendors from Singapore to Mexico City are rejoicing at the news that, from the end of this month, travellers will be able to buy before they fly to EU airports such as Heathrow and Amsterdam, even if they then transfer to another flight. At present, any duty free is confiscated at the security check for the connecting flight.

But before you buy a three-pack of champagne to celebrate, beware: not only must the drink be contained in a transparent, tamper-proof bag, but the security staff also reserve the right to open any bottles to check that the contents are as described on the label. That presents little problem for a bottle of tequila, but could take the sparkle out of your trip if it's Moët & Chandon.

A more significant worry is that anything that could confuse matters is the last thing that hard-pressed security staff need. From past experience, passengers will misinterpret the easing of rules, and get all kinds of wrong ideas – trying to take wine bought outside the airport on to an intra-European flight, or buying booze en route to the US with a connection in, say, Houston. My understanding is that this will continue to be forbidden.

Last week, I wrote here about the problems with liquids at the Stansted security checkpoint, which resulted in cabin baggage being abandoned and flights being missed. Mark Davison, the head of media relations at the Essex airport, has responded with a courteous letter that helps explain things: "Your report highlights an issue that is really key to ensuring that passengers travel through the security search area as quickly and easily as possible – preparing correctly before they leave for the airport. Despite the current security rules being in place for nearly five years, we take every opportunity to bang home this message as it is so crucial."

He makes a good point: the rules on "LAGs" (liquids, aerosols and gels) are clear, but plenty of travellers choose to ignore them. And a lot of the time that is because the rules are enforced with so little enthusiasm elsewhere. At Amsterdam airport, for example, liquids can happily stay inside bags rather than being presented separately, as in the UK. And as every laptop user will know, the rule on whether or not to take the computer out of the bag seems to change from day to day.

I have no particular problem with inconsistencies, because if rules are followed blindly then disaster may ensue: the 9/11 terrorists were legally admitted to the US, and the blades they carried on their murderous final journeys were permitted on board aircraft. But I can guarantee that a change in rules which will benefit only a tiny percentage of travellers will lead to more confusion, make queues even longer and distress even more passengers.

Belt-and-braces approach to avoiding security delays

The best way to avoid being delayed at security? Well, you could walk through naked, but the next best thing is to check in anything from LAGs to Lego, rather than risk your cabin baggage being selected for extra scrutiny. While some airlines – notably British Airways and other "legacy" carriers – continue to offer a free baggage allowance, this could make sense even if you would normally travel only with hand luggage.

But Adrian Young, a safety manager at a European airline, warns that this leads to another risk: that your bag does not turn up at the other end. "A trip in February, from Amsterdam to Torp in Norway, went wrong because KLM staff took a whole trolley of bags to the transfer hall instead of the plane," he says. "Thereby 18 bags, on a plane with only 70 seats, were not delivered until the next day. Not a good start to a skiing holiday."

Nevertheless, Mr Young still sees the value of checking in bags to speed up security checks: "If you have any faith in the combination of airline/airport you are using, check everything in – even your belt". Just hope it turns up on the baggage belt.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Restaurant Manager / Sommelier

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Poole

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn