100ml hand baggage rule change blamed for chaos at Birmingham Airport

Disgruntled travellers have complained about the long waits at one of Britain's busiest terminals

Queues at Birmingham Airport on Monday morning. Photo: Max Hayes / X
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The boss of one of the UK’s busiest airports has blamed large queues on a temporary 100ml liquid hand luggage restriction – despite the change being in place since March.

Many disgruntled passengers have complained about the long waits at Birmingham Airport this month, with a doctor claiming he treated two people for hypothermia last week after they were forced to wait outside the terminal.

Other passengers claimed they had missed their flights due to lengthy waits at airport security.

Emirates, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines all use the airport. Other airlines, including Jet2, also fly to Middle Eastern destinations from Birmingham.

The terminal met a government deadline to install high-tech screening machines, meaning passengers would no longer have to comply with a 100ml limit on liquids, aerosols and gels in their cabin baggage.

However, it was forced to reintroduce the 100ml rule in March due to an outstanding regulatory approval, leading to regular queues outside the building.

Over the weekend, the airport warned that it was one of several where the 100ml directive was being reintroduced on Sunday. The others are Newcastle, Leeds Bradford, London City, Aberdeen, Southend and Teesside.

Other airports have also warned about the effect of the change. “100ml restrictions on liquids will temporarily be reintroduced. However, passengers departing from London City can still keep everything (all liquids and large electronics) in their bags when going through security,” London City wrote on X.

Birmingham Airport said: “A new government directive has been issued nationwide across all ports. This new directive means that the containers passengers are carrying in their hand luggage when leaving Birmingham Airport can be no more than 100ml in liquids, pastes and gels until further notice.

“This is a rule that Birmingham Airport has been complying with for months due to an outstanding regulatory approval on its new screening machines.”

Nick Barton, chief executive officer of Birmingham Airport, said passengers’ failure to comply with the rule is to blame for the queues.

“The rules that we have been adhering to since March are now very clear in that only liquids, pastes and gels up to 100ml can be carried through in hand luggage,” he said.

“Since opening our new security area, and despite being one of the first UK airports to comply, we have been limited on the use of our multi-million-pound equipment due to an outstanding regulatory restriction meaning we had to limit liquids to 100ml. This rule has now been implemented nationwide.

“Despite the 100ml rule still being in place, we continually have non-compliant bags with liquids over the allowance which have led to inefficiencies of our equipment and resulted in extended queuing time for customers.”

However, some have disputed the claim on social media, saying building works to create a new security area is the cause of the delays.

“The ridiculous queues at Birmingham Airport have nothing to do with the liquids rule – because of the ongoing refurbishment works the escalators to security are out of action and only 2 lifts work to take you through to security. What a joke of an airport,” wrote one passenger on X.

Another wrote that she had seen passengers “desperately chugging two litres of cola” despite the luggage rule having been in place for more than 15 years.

The airport previously said the 100ml rule will remain in place “until further notice”, although liquids no longer have to be placed in a plastic bag and can be left in hand luggage.

It added: “The airport has invested £60 million in its new larger security area. This area is purpose-built with simpler, streamlined equipment and will futureproof Birmingham Airport from its current 12 million passengers per year in 2024, to accommodate 18 million passengers per annum by 2033.”

Mr Barton said a “non-compliant bag” can add up to 20 minutes to each passenger's journey through security and it was “imperative” all customers comply with the rule.

The Department of Transport has said the restrictions were reintroduced to allow for further improvements to the systems, not in response to a specific threat.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper told BBC Breakfast the reintroduction of restrictions was to allow “changes” to be made to the scanning equipment.

“It's a temporary measure and we’ll set out when that can be reversed in due course,” he said.

Updated: June 10, 2024, 11:47 AM