Countries split as EU softens flight liquids ban

BRUSSELS - A ban on passengers taking liquids on aircraft will be partly lifted in the European Union on Friday, but up to half the EU’s 27 member states are expected to ignore the change, citing security concerns.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Thu 28 Apr 2011, 11:09 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:00 PM

Passengers travelling from non-EU countries to or through the European bloc will be allowed to carry onboard duty free goods containing liquids, aerosols and gels. A full lifting of the ban is scheduled for April 2013.

Carrying more than 100 ml of liquid onboard aircraft has been banned since 2006, when British police uncovered a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners bound for North America using bombs made from liquid explosives.

Several EU member states, particularly those with busy airport hubs, remain staunchly opposed to a softening of the ban, saying there are still widespread security concerns.

France has said it will not take part in the partial lifting of the ban, saying its military involvement in Afghanistan and Libya makes it a potential target and that it wants to maintain the tightest possible security.

European airports association ACI Europe said in January lifting the ban too soon — before technology is in place to detect possible liquid explosives — could threaten aircraft security. It has called Friday’s deadline “overly ambitious”.

While many passengers, long frustrated by the limits on carrying liquids on aircraft, will cheer the change, the fact some major countries are not taking part means there is likely to be continued confusion and frustration for travellers.

An EU source said about half the EU’s member states were not expected to make the rule change on Friday, although only one or two countries have formally applied for a derogation — permission to opt out of the change in legislation.

Companies that operate airport shops are keen to see an end to the ban, which is expected to lead to an increase in sales of alcohol, perfume and other products sold in quantities over 100 ml.

Airports group ACI said that in principle it supported the full lifting of the ban, but said current liquids-scanning equipment was “unfit for purpose” — not certain to capture all potential liquid explosives that might be smuggled.

The partial lifting of the ban has already been postponed for a year as a result of opposition from EU member states, who raised concerns about the quality of the liquids-scanning machines and the potential ramifications for security.

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