Travel: Why was the 100ml liquid limit at airports introduced?

A foiled terrorist plot in 2006 led to a wave of changes in the UK (Picture: Getty Images)

In a matter of years, airports could ditch their ban on liquids over 100ml in hand luggage.

Many of us have been forced to handover shampoo bottles mistakenly packed in the wrong bag or – even worse – expensive alcohol bought as a souvenir.

Currently, liquids must not exceed 100ml and have to be carried in a clear plastic bag.

But a move to backtrack on the ban, described as a ‘game-changer’ by airport bosses, will save passengers countless time in queues for security.

According to John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow, the rule could be scrapped nationwide by 2024.

The implementation of new scanning systems will negate the need for strict rules on liquids, he told the Times.

Airports outwith the United Kingdom, such as Shannon Airport in Ireland, have already moved away from the rule.

But why was the 100ml limit introduced?

Liquids in hand luggage currently must be less than 100ml and carried in a clear bag (Picture: Getty)

Airports had already drastically changed following the 9/11 attacks.

Before then there were very few limits on what you could bring onto the plane, and even knives, up to four inches in length, were permitted.

All that changed following the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot.

Terrorists had been poised to smuggle liquid explosives through security by disguising them as soft drinks.

They planned to carry the explosives aboard planes travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada.

The scene of a police raid on Forest Road, Walthamstow, London, in relation to the foiled plot (Picture: : Wikimedia/David Gerard)

Abdulla Ahmed Ali was one man watched by police as part of a wider investigation into the plot.

He returned from Pakistan in June 2006 and, when investigators covertly opened his baggage, they found a powdered soft drink—Tang—and a large number of batteries.

In the following weeks the police mounted the UK’s largest surveillance operation into the plot, calling on an additional 220 officers from other forces.

Assad Sarwar, from High Wycombe, had met with Ali in an east London park and became a person of interest in the case.

When tailed by officers, he was seen buying items ‘that did not seem consistent with his daily needs’.

MI5 covertly entered the flat being used by Ali and found what appeared to be a bomb factory.

Explosives were to be smuggled through security in soft drink bottles (Picture: Getty Images)

Further investigations – such as secret cameras and microphones – gave proof that devices were being constructed out of drink bottles.

Ali was later watched by surveillance officers at an Internet cafe, where he spent two hours researching flight timetables.

Arrests were made and police carried out raids on a number of properties ahead of a lengthy trial.

On 10 August 2006, British Home Secretary John Reid, broke the news of the foiled plot, along with Douglas Alexander, the Transport Secretary.

Former UK Secretary of State for Transport, Douglas Alexander, informed the public of the thwarted plot to blow up airliners bound for the U.S (Picture: Getty Images)

The same day, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Stephenson, said that a plot, intended to destroy as many as ten aircraft in mid-flight from the United Kingdom to the United States using explosives brought on board in the suspects’ hand luggage, had been disrupted.

As a result of the incident, unprecedented security measures were initially implemented at airports.

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

At the time, Metro reported: ’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.

Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Paul Stevenson said as many as ten aircraft were targeted under the failed plot (Picture: AFP)

‘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.’

Travellers were said to be ‘confused’ by how restrictions seemed so changeable depending on where in the world they were flying from or to.

As is the case today, there were different regulations from airline to airline.

In 2006, Metro reported: ’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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