Bomb plot: Baggage restrictions wrecked holiday plans

By Peter Woodman,Pa
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:12

Tough airport baggage restrictions that wrecked holiday travel plans for many thousands of consumers were introduced overnight in the wake of the arrests of the bomb plot gang.

The new rules introduced on August 10 2006 resulted in hundreds of cancelled flights, long delays and queues at UK airports.

In the months that followed, luggage restrictions were eased, but this led to confusion, with different airlines, different airports and different countries all having different regulations.

Two years after the arrests, travellers are still limited as to what they can carry onto planes.

The lengthy queues at airport security, the more frequent body searches and the shoes-off, jackets-off regimes all remain.

There is no doubt that the most disruptive day for air travel was the first day that restrictions were brought in - August 10 2006.

Politicians, airport operators and airline chiefs had worked through the night to be ready to bring in the new rules, but there was only so much warning that could be given to passengers at one of the busiest times of the year for air travel.

At first, no hand luggage was allowed on planes in a move spelled out by the then Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander, who had interrupted his holiday on the island of Mull to oversee the security arrangements with the then Home Secretary John Reid.

What followed at airports was chaos. At Heathrow airport British Airways cancelled scores of flights and other airlines also had to axe services as huge queues built up.

In the weeks that followed hand luggage of a certain size was allowed on flights again, but liquids in carry-on bags were limited to 100ml in size - a restriction still in place.

British travellers were often confused. While they were restricted in just what they could carry when leaving the UK, on occasions there were no such restrictions on their return flights.

Then there were different regulations from airline to airline. Even now, when UK airports are allowing passengers to take two suitably-sized pieces of hand luggage on planes, the carry-on bag rules vary depending which carrier people travel with.

All this has come at a cost. Airports have beefed up their security equipment and taken on more security staff, while airlines such as BA have seen profits hit by the delays and cancellations the restrictions have caused.

Yet despite the increased aggravation, the public's desire to fly was undiminished. Nothing - not fear of terrorism, nor long queues, nor the credit crunch - deterred Britons from wishing to jet off to foreign climes.

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