Getting Through Airport Security

You know the scene: palms sweating, paranoid and trying not to look it.  Abject terror as you approach the beep machine with airport security just the other side.  All this because you are trying to smuggle a ham sandwich onto the plane.  The cost of meals is ridiculous on flights, but it really isn’t worth the hassle of having to put your bag through twice, never mind hear the dreaded slap of a rubber glove being pulled on. None of us are daft enough to smuggle proper contraband through a station, even should we want to, but what are the contraband items that you don’t think about?

Airport security is pretty tough these days.  No liquids or pastes over a hundred millilitres, and everything visible in a plastic bag.  Oh, and the plastic bag has to be 20x20cm.  You can’t take a half full 200ml bottle, it has to be the right sized bottle too, whatever the liquid.  That includes your embarrassing ointments, but it is all the more embarrassing to have it fished out of your bag in front of everyone.  Computers need scanning separately, and you often have to take your shoes off.  If you don’t take your belt off and the machine beeps at you, you will be frisked.  Something to avoid unless you like being handled by a burly member of the same sex, but hey, who’s judging?

  • If you’re taking your favourite perfume or aftershave with you, you are going to want to decant it into a little plastic spritzer.  You can usually buy this at the airport, but be organised.  If you can’t unscrew the top you’ll be spraying for a long time to empty that expensive bottle.
    If you are a smoker, it’s worth being aware that you can only carry one lighter and it must be on your person, not in your bag.
  • If you have medicines larger than 100ml in volume, then you need prior approval from the airline and a doctor’s note.
  • Things you cannot take in your hand luggage include – corkscrews, sharp knives, scissors longer than 6cm, non-safety matches, most sports equipment including tennis rackets, golf clubs or darts, work tools such as screwdrivers, hammers or wrenches.  Also, firearms are not allowed, but you may have guessed that.
  • If you are taking a baby with you, it is a good idea to look at the regulations for food and milk.  Milk is only allowed in the parents’ luggage, and sterilised water must be in a baby bottle.  No other water is allowed through.
  • Contact lens solution is a vital item for some, but doesn’t escape the 100ml regulation.  Get a little bottle of it or decant some.

These laws are a nuisance some of them, but they are for safety and if you follow them properly you can avoid a scene.  There is more information on the government website and you can check the particulars beyond the scope of this guide.
On a final note, be aware also that bringing food products from outside the UK is generally problematic, especially meat and dairy.  Also, even within the UK there are regulations on potatoes, plants, fish, shellfish, honey, eggs and egg products, and some fruits and vegetables.  This is to say, it’s usually worth eating your picnic before you get on the plane.  It’s not worth having to declare these items at customs or worse trying to sneak them through and getting held up and fined.
Geoff writes for Herbert Systems who engineer baggage handling systems to make sure your luggage gets through the airport and onto the plain with as little hassle as possible