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New scanners to end flight liquid restrictions within a year

Restrictions on passengers taking liquids on planes could be lifted within a year in Europe after ministers approved a new generation of airport scanners.

The devices should be installed at every airport in Britain and across the European Union by next April.

Although passengers will still have to remove bottles from their cabin luggage for inspection, they will no longer be banned from carrying containers of fluid exceeding 100ml.

A complete ban on taking liquids through airport security was introduced in August 2006 after a terrorist plot to down transatlantic aircraft, by mixing the liquid components of a bomb on board, was thwarted.

Although it was eased to allow passengers to take liquids in containers up to 100ml through security, the restrictions caused huge inconvenience.

Passengers have surrendered containers of anything from Marmite to vintage champagne, with one survey estimating the value of confiscated liquids at British airports at £10m (€12.13m) a day.

It had been hoped that the ban would be lifted across the EU last year. But those plans were scrapped following representations from a number of governments suggesting that the screening equipment was not fit for purpose.

There were fears that inadequate scanners could, by triggering false alarms, cause havoc at airports making delays worse rather than better.

The new generation of scanners has already been tested at a number of airports as part of trials coordinated by the European Commission's liquids working group.

There could also be an end in sight to the requirement to remove laptops from hand luggage. Equipment that allowed laptops to be scanned while inside bags was successfully tested for 18 months at Heathrow, before being removed.

Now, however, the American authorities are pushing for the restriction to be eased, and the EU is expected to follow suit. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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