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Airport security – limits on hand luggage and what you can take

By March 22, 2017 No Comments

Make sure you know your hand luggage allowances.

All UK airports enforce restrictions on what you’re allowed to carry in your hand luggage. It’s important to pack with these restrictions in mind to avoid delays and frustration at the outset of your trip.

Airport security

You should also check for any restrictions with your airline, for example on the number and size of the bags you can carry. These limits may differ depending on whether you’re travelling as a first-class, business-class or economy passenger.


When possible, it’s best to pack any liquids in your hold baggage instead. However, if you do plan to carry liquids in your hand luggage, you need to:

• place each liquid in a container designed to store no more than 100 millilitres – containers larger than this won’t be allowed through security check points even if they’re only partially full
• place the containers in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag designed to hold no more than a litre and that measures about 20 by 20 centimetres, and avoid knotting the top of the bag
• show the bag containing the liquids at the airport security point

Each passenger is allowed to carry only one of these bags.

In the UK, airport security defines liquids as including all drinks, soups, syrups and so on; cosmetics and toiletries – such as creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and even lipstick; sprays – including hairspray, spray-on deodorant and shaving foam; pastes such as toothpaste; gels – including hair and shower gel; contact lens solution and any other solution of a similar consistency to those listed.

Exceptions to the liquid restrictions

• Medication

You can carry required medication in quantities larger than 100 millilitres, but only with prior approval from the airline or airport, and supporting documents from a medical professional to say that you require the medication on your journey. Extra supplies should be stored in your hold baggage.

• Baby supplies

You can carry baby food, baby milk and sterilised water – provided it’s in a baby bottle – in quantities larger than 100 millilitres. However, airport security personnel may ask you to taste the contents.

• Airport duty-free purchases

Liquids you buy at the airport after you’ve passed through security are subject to different restrictions and are allowed in larger quantities. Examples are bottled water, wine and spirits, fragrances and cosmetics.


You may carry a single cigarette lighter on board, but you can’t store the lighter in your hold luggage or in your hand luggage. Instead you need to put it inside a plastic bag for liquids and keep it on your person throughout your journey.

Mobility aids and medical equipment

Pushchairs, walking aids and wheelchairs are generally allowed on flights, but have to be screened at airport security check points first. For battery-powered wheelchairs or mobility aids, check with your airline first.

You can carry essential medical equipment, such as inhalers or hypodermic syringes. However, you have to show documentation from a qualified medical professional to verify that you need it. To carry cooling gel packs, you need approval from the airport or airline.

Special restrictions apply in the case of oxygen cylinders, so if you need to travel with oxygen, it’s important to check first with your airline.

Electrical devices

Most electrical devices, such as laptops and hairdryers, are allowed, but you need to remove them from your luggage for separate screening at security checkpoints. You need to switch off your mobile phone once aircraft doors are sealed.

Musical instruments

Musical instruments are screened separately at airport security checkpoints. Before travelling with an instrument, you should contact your airline to make special arrangements. For example, you might be required to purchase an extra seat.

Items you can’t carry in hand luggage

Some examples of items you’re not allowed to carry at all are firearms, self-defense sprays and corrosive or bleaching agents. Airport security personnel may prevent you from carrying any item they feel is potentially dangerous in hand luggage, even if it’s not specifically prohibited.

Some items that aren’t allowed in your carry-on luggage are allowed in the luggage you check through before boarding. For instance, this includes:

• a knife, scissors, screwdriver, chisel or any similar tool with a blade longer than 6 centimetres
• sports equipment like golf clubs, racquets, darts, walking or hiking poles, fishing rods or martial arts equipment
• tools like saws, drills and drill bits, hammers and pliers

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