Passengers flying out of Australia’s international airports will be able to pack liquids in their carry on bags without restrictions by mid-2013, the federal government said.
The announcement follows successful trials of advanced explosive detection equipment, which is designed to detect traces of explosives in liquids.
The new screening technology has been trialled at Sydney and Melbourne Airports and is set to be introduced across Australia’s international airports from next year.
Currently passengers travelling domestically in Australia can bring liquids over 100ml in carry-on bags.
But the same restrictions do not apply on international flights, where passengers must surrender liquids/aerosols/gels in containers larger than 100ml at security.
The federal Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, said the relaxation of the rules for international travellers ”will be widely welcomed”.
He also stressed that the new screening procedures would shorten check-in times and minimise disruption for international travellers.
The liquids and gels restrictions were introduced in 2006 when British police foiled a terror plot to detonate liquid explosives on flights.
The security rules have led to scenes of frustration at airport security and the confiscation of ‘oversized’ drink bottles, perfumes and baby food to sun cream.
Hazy picture in Europe
Airport security is often criticised for its patchwork of different rules which can confuse passengers.
The US has not shared any intentions to relax the liquids rules.
While in Europe, the EU has given airports until April 2013 to install scanners that will ease restrictions on liquids at European airports – without compromising security.
In April this year, the EU was due to partially lift the ban on carry-on liquids – starting with passengers travelling with duty free from outside the EU and connecting at European airports.
It was meant to be the first step towards lifting the liquids ban Europewide by April 2013.
But the EU made a u-turn at the 11th hour after the US warned that it would introduce its own measures for liquids on US-bound flights, in response.
A number of European countries also resisted the change over fears that it would cause confusion for passengers.
The aviation industry has shown skepticism over whether the technology is ready to detect suspect liquids inside bags.
Currently bottles must be placed in sealed, transparent bags for screening.
European airports have also cited concerns about the costs involved to invest in new liquid screening technology.
The European Commission expects the 2013 deadline to be met and believes the liquid-screening machines will be ready.