Aviation security: the EU acts against new threats from liquid explosives
Duty free sales - a "significant and complicated change for the industry". Imminent European Union rule changes to duty free movements within the EU, which have already started to filter through to the airport industry worldwide, will have a stunning impact on airport and airline duty free sales until some reason can be restored. But that will take months, at least.
A 25-Oct-06 industry briefing in Cannes at the annual Tax Free World Association gathering warned of the remarkable changes imminent for all liquid duty free sales outside the European Union (and the US and Canada). These follow the recent foiled attacks in the UK, allegedly involving the planned use of liquid explosives on aircraft in flight.
Frank O'Connell, President of the European Travel Retail Council, recommended that all duty free sales outlets outside Europe should - across the board - advise travellers that any individual amounts of liquid or gels exceeding 100ml will be confiscated if carried into the EU by air.
The EU rules will quite possibly revolutionise the way duty free liquids (liquor and many cosmetics, including gels) may be sold at duty free outlets around the world for carriage by air. Similar rules will probably eventually be adopted globally. But its suddenness and the lack of consultation with foreign governments, means that, in the meantime, the prospects of severe disruption and confusion will be greatly magnified.
And, while the US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has given interim in principle agreement to the EU rules, separate and different (but at least as stringent) restrictions may be expected from North American authorities in due course.
Effective 06-Nov-06, new European Union rules will apply, which in practice may ban any sales of duty free liquids, such as liquor or perfumes, in excess of 100mls for any single container. A total of 500mls in five or more containers is the maximum permissible.
Specifically, the rules mean that any traveller with liquid duty free items in excess of that amount purchased outside the EU will have those goods confiscated if a transfer is made within the EU - that is, as soon as the traveller with duty free goods passes through a further security check, as is necessary before boarding a connecting flight.
For passengers arriving into an EU country and not travelling onwards, the goods will not be subject to a further security check and will therefore not be confiscated.
In due course, ICAO will hopefully move to restore some global standardisation, but meanwhile, in order to satisfy the European priorities, the EU has established the rule, effectively unilaterally (although with some consultation with the TSA).
This is a highly unsatisfactory - and massively costly - situation, especially for Asia Pacific travellers and airports. National governments outside the EU will be well advised to move quickly to raise the issue at the highest levels of government in the EU, both at national level and with the Commission itself. The prospects of gaining a delay in implementation are remote, but strong government pressure at this stage will certainly accelerate a better understanding of each others' concerns.
For airports, there will be an urgent need to educate their airport staff and to ensure that their airport retailers are well aware of the complex, but rigid rules about to be imposed, so that traveller confusion will be limited.
Even within the EU, the sudden implementation of the ruling is, according to Mr O'Connell, likely to lead to "chaos". For duty free sales originating outside the EU, the situation approaches anarchy.
© Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation
EU Press Release
Brussels, 5 October 2006 - The European Commission adopted a regulation today restricting the liquids that passengers can carry past screening points and then onto aircraft. This comes as a reaction to another threat to civil aviation security stemming from home made liquid explosives.
“The threat of liquid explosives is real and generic. The new regulation will plug a gap in our defences, by restricting the liquids that passengers can carry past screening points and on board aircraft. It will apply to all departing flights in order to protect people everywhere in the Union”, stressed European Commission Vice-President in charge of Transport, Mr. Jacques Barrot.
On 10th August this year an apparent plot to set off bombs on aircraft flying to the United States using liquid explosives was discovered. The Commission has acted rapidly to restrict the liquids that passengers can carry past screening points and then on-board aircraft. The new regulation prevents passengers carrying liquids past screening points, whether on their persons or in their cabin baggage. It applies to all flights departing from airports in the European Union, regardless of their destination and the nationality of the carrier, so that there is the same level of protection throughout the European Union. The regulation affects cabin baggage only, as hold baggage is inaccessible once checked in.
The new rules apply to all liquids, as present-day screening equipment cannot distinguish one type from another sufficiently fast to be used at airports. However passengers are permitted to take quantities too small to make dangerous explosives (in containers not exceeding 100 millilitres in capacity) past screening points. They can therefore still carry small amounts of toiletries and perfume in their cabin baggage. The new regulation also makes an exception for medicines and dietary requirements needed during a trip, including baby food. Travellers can continue to carry them in their cabin baggage.
Passengers can also continue to take liquids, such as drinks and perfumes, obtained beyond the points where boarding passes are controlled, on board aircraft. The regulation lays down precautions to prevent tampering or interference after purchase.
The Commission has carefully considered the effects of the new rules on screening at airports. It is essential to minimise any delays, but without compromising security. The regulation therefore includes certain measures to help screeners do their job. For example, passengers have to pack the containers of 100 millilitres or less in plastic bags no more than one litre in capacity and present them at screening points.
Furthermore, the new rules require passengers to remove coats and jackets at security checkpoints and for laptops and large electrical items to be removed from bags.
Finally the Regulation will in 6 months limit the size of cabin baggage allowed to a maximum of 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm, with possibilities for some exemptions e.g. for musical instruments, cameras, etc.
The Commission will actively assist the Member States and the associations representing airlines and airports in their efforts to inform passengers before the regulation comes into force, which is expected to be in early November.