Security restrictions on liquids and laptops in airport hand luggage could be abolished in the UK in 2024 due to the deployment of hi-tech 3D scanners.
The government is considering rolling out the advanced technology, which is similar to CT scanners used in hospitals, in two years although a final decision has yet to be made, a source told the BBC.
Currently, passengers taking liquids in their cabin bags are restricted to containers of up to 100ml which must be placed in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag when they pass through airport security. The current rules have been in place since November 2006.
The Times reported that major UK airports have been given a deadline of mid-2024 to install more advanced scanners and ministers have been carrying out a review with a formal announcement expected in the coming weeks.
Passengers failing to remove items from their bags or travelling with large bottles of liquids and creams are the biggest cause of delays at airport security.
The new technology, which has been trialled at London’s Heathrow airport since 2017, enables staff to zoom in on a bag’s contents and rotate the images for inspection.
Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, told the Times: “We are slowly rolling them out.
“We have just started the expansion of the security area in Terminal 3 which will have more CT scanners and have a deadline of mid-2024 from the [Department for Transport]. By then the normal passenger experience will be that liquids stay in bags.”
The transport secretary, Mark Harper, said the rules for carrying liquids in hand luggage are being kept “under review”.
Harper told Sky News it was “off the back of some commentary from one of the bosses from an airport”. He added: “And I am afraid you’ll know our usual practice on security matters is we don’t comment on security matters. I think that is quite important.
“And I am now responsible for setting the security regime for our aviation sector. So if there are any changes coming, we will set those out for people in due course.
“But at the moment the regime is as it is with the strict limits on the liquids people can take on planes.”
The technology has already been in use by US airports such as Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Georgia, and O’Hare in Chicago for a number of years.