U.K. Airports Will Ease Restrictions on Liquids and Laptops in Carry-On Bags

Starting in 2024, travelers won’t need to limit liquids to travel-size containers

Airplane flying into sunset
Travelers won't have to squeeze all of their liquids into tiny containers when traveling through United Kingdom airports starting in 2024. Pixabay

By mid-2024, airports in the United Kingdom will allow passengers to bring liquids of up to 67.6 ounces (2 liters) in their carry-on bags, up from the current limit of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters). Travelers won’t need to remove liquids or large electronic items like laptops from their bags as they pass through security checkpoints, either.

The U.K. government announced the upcoming changes in a statement last week, calling them the “biggest shake-up of airport security rules in decades.” The existing liquid limits have been in place since 2006, when authorities foiled a terrorist plot to bring liquid explosives onto flights headed for the United States.

“The tiny toiletry has become a staple of airport security checkpoints, but that’s all set to change,” says Mark Harper, the U.K.’s transportation head, in the statement.

To make this vision a reality, all U.K. airports will be required to install updated security screening devices that make seeing inside carry-on luggage and identifying potential threats easier.

The new X-ray scanners rely on computed tomography (CT) technology, similar to the CT scans doctors use in medical settings, per Condé Nast Traveler’s Jessica Puckett. The technology produces highly detailed 3-D images of luggage contents, then uses sophisticated threat-detection algorithms to alert security agents of any possible issues.

After conducting trials of the technology starting in 2018, the U.K. government has now set a June 2024 deadline for all airports to upgrade their equipment and processes. The new tech should help speed up security screenings and shorten lines.

Girl looking out airplane window
Airports in the United Kingdom and the United States are installing new CT scanners at security checkpoints. Pexels

Many U.S. airports have already installed the new CT scanners in recent years. As of May, 163 airports across the country had added 402 scanners to their security checkpoints, per a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) statement

The TSA relaxed its rules slightly at airports using the technology, allowing travelers to leave food, electronics and travel-sized liquids in their carry-on bags as they pass through checkpoints. But even with the more sophisticated tech in place, TSA officials say they are still “years away” from changing the current liquids rules, says Robert Carter Langston, a TSA spokesperson, to Conde Nast Traveler.

Currently, travelers flying through U.S. airports can only bring liquids of 3.4 ounces or less in their carry-on bags, and they must all be able to fit inside a clear, one-quart bag. TSA leaders may feel differently in a few years, however, once their counterparts across the Atlantic have their new rules in place.

“I believe that TSA and other aviation security organizations will study the results from the U.K.’s decision closely and carefully,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst for Atmosphere Research, tells Conde Nast Traveler.

New security scanners aren’t the only travel upgrades happening across the pond. In November, the European Commission decided to allow airlines to provide 5G connectivity on their planes, meaning travelers may soon be able to make phone calls while flying.

In the U.S., meanwhile, travelers no longer have to show their boarding passes at security checkpoints in some airports, thanks to the installation of new Credential Authentication Technology systems. Also this year, TSA began allowing some travelers to upload their state-issued ID to their Apple Wallet app and then use their iPhone or Apple Watch as a form of identification at security.