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Delays continue at Birmingham airport after changes to security checks 

Birmingham Airport experienced long delays this weekend due to confusion over new rules regarding liquids in hand luggage. Social media posts show queues extending outside the airport as early as 5am, with some passengers waiting up to two hours to clear security.

The chaos follows the recent introduction of new restrictions on carrying liquids in hand luggage. Several UK airports had planned to increase the liquid limit from 100ml to two litres with the implementation of a new scanning system. 

These advanced security scanners use Computed Tomography (CT) X-ray technology, similar to that used in medical imaging, providing a detailed 3D view of the contents of passengers’ bags. 

The images can be rotated and zoomed in on, allowing for thorough inspection, akin to “digitally unpacking the bag,” as explained by device manufacturer Smiths Detection. This technology represents an upgrade from the 2D imaging currently used at most airports.

The scanners also employ sophisticated threat detection algorithms capable of identifying explosives, including liquid ones, and other hazards, according to the UK’s Department for Transport. However, delays in installing this system mean the 100ml rule remains in effect, leading to passenger confusion about what is permissible in their hand luggage.

The UK government initially approved a select number of airports to raise the liquid limit to two litres following the installation of new CT scanners. 

This change was supposed to take effect on June 1st, eliminating the 100ml limit at these airports. Nevertheless, logistical issues prevented many airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, and Manchester, from meeting the deadline. Other airports that met the deadline had already lifted the 100ml limit.

The UK’s Department for Transport has now temporarily reinstated the 100ml limit at six airports: London City, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Leeds/Bradford, Southend, and Teesside. 

Airports report that this abrupt policy reversal has left passengers uncertain about what they can bring in their hand luggage during a busy travel period. 

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) criticized the last-minute changes, stating they were “instigated with very little notice,” leaving airports struggling to adjust staffing and resources.

Birmingham Airport, which had upgraded to the new scanners, must still enforce the 100ml rule due to an “outstanding regulatory restriction.” 

Although passengers can keep their liquids inside their bags during security screening, the presence of non-compliant bags with liquids exceeding the allowance has led to inefficiencies and extended waiting times. The airport noted that a non-compliant bag can add up to 20 minutes to each passenger’s security process.

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