We have the technology to end the airport liquid ban, so why is it still in place?

Maria J. Smith

(CNN) — A tranquil revolution is underway in how we transit airport safety — but most of us would not even have observed.

The requirement to put liquids into 100-milliliter containers and choose electronics out of bags has been a staple of air travel for approximately 16 years. However, at lots of airports all around the world new technological innovation is presently in location that will allow that rule to be scrapped, and some are now beginning to drop the ban.

Back again in October 2021, Shannon Airport, in the west of Eire, quietly introduced its new point out-of-the-art computed tomography, or CT, scanning safety program, mounted at a cost of €2.5 million (about $2.6 million).

Liquids and electronics could now remain in bags, with no constraints on liquid quantity, and cabin luggage could be whisked by the scans in new more substantial trays.

It can be not the first time Shannon, Europe’s most westerly airport, was a global pioneer. The world’s to start with Obligation-Totally free store opened here in 1947, and in 2009 it turned the initially airport in the world, outside the house of the Americas, to give full US pre-clearance facilities.

“It is one of the initiatives Shannon Team took on all through the time period of critical journey restrictions on aviation,” Nandi O’Sullivan, the group’s head of communications, tells CNN Journey.

Applied through the pandemic, it was only when global vacation resumed in March 2022 that the airport’s move started to attain wider awareness. Donegal Airport, in the northwest of Eire, has also followed match by installing new engineering and dropping the 100-milliliter rule.

Better protection, shorter strains

So how does this new CT engineering function, which airports are currently applying it, and why usually are not additional destinations enjoyable their limitations?

Kevin Riordan, head of checkpoint answers at Smiths Detection, the enterprise that delivers Shannon’s protection machines and a world-wide chief in computed tomography technological know-how, describes.

Just as with the CT scans we know from hospitals, the stability scanners at airports switch common 2D X-ray scanning with considerably much more specific 3D imaging.

“You can get a whole lot of data from a 2D image but if you’ve acquired a 3D item in your hand you get a large amount far more info,” says Riordan.

“From a stability point of check out, they’re equipped to make pretty precise selections about what the elements are in your bag: Is it a probably threat materials or is it benign. That’s greater stability, far better choices.”

CT security scanners introduced at Ireland's Shannon airport

A girl transiting security at Ireland’s Shannon Airport.

Courtesy Shannon Group

Shannon Airport estimates that time expended going via its passenger protection screening will be halved by the new technology, and unsurprisingly, Riordan states that passenger comments has been incredibly favourable at airports the place the new equipment have been trialled.

The liquid ban was introduced around the globe just after a transatlantic terrorist plot was foiled in August 2006, in which a group planned to detonate liquid explosives on board numerous flights. It truly is turn out to be element of everyday existence, but a lot of of us fondly bear in mind the situations when safety strains were being faster and luggage-packing was less difficult.

Gradual rollout

CT technologies initially started to make headlines back in 2018. The scanners were being trialled at important airports which include London Heathrow, New York JFK and Amsterdam’s Schiphol. The pursuing yr, Heathrow introduced that it was investing £50 million (about $62 million) in a gradual rollout of the engineering across its airports with a deadline of 2022.

In July 2020, it was declared that London Southend Airport would become the very first in Britain to drop the follow of building passengers get their liquids and electronics out of the luggage in advance of likely through security.

Amsterstam Schiphol has also been making use of CT technological know-how at all its checkpoints since 2020, Dennis Muller, senior spokesperson for the airport, tells CNN. But unlike Southend or Donegal, it is really a big worldwide hub. It truly is no for a longer period required for its travellers to follow liquid limitations, but the airport advises that they use 100-milliliter containers all the very same, to stay clear of issues when traveling to other jurisdictions.

“The Netherlands has moved more quickly, in all probability, than most,” says Riordan. “The Uk has really mandated that technology by 2024, and that would let all limitations about what you can have on to be lifted.”

The moment extra nations are able to entire total nationwide rollouts of the technologies, we will start off to see far more airport and areas commence to see the ban becoming lifted or comfortable — but changes to restrictions will not appear fast or universally, and it’s a shifting landscape.

Staffing constraints

“It is really a dynamic picture that we are even now attempting to recognize, what has the impact been in excess of the final two many years,” states Riordan. “Passenger quantities are recovering in quite a few airports (probably) faster than predicted.” There have been extensively claimed team shortages at airports and on airways close to the environment, main numerous to forecast a “summer months of chaos” forward.
Smiths Detection is a single of a little handful of providers in the CT technological innovation subject, with US firm Leidos staying a principal competitor — past calendar year it was awarded a $470.7 million TSA agreement to deploy checkpoint screening technological know-how in the States.

“It truly is a continuing procedure for us as suppliers,” claims Riordan. The recent staffing constraints “places pressure on us to layout operations that are a great deal far more successful. CT technologies is the greatest readily available, but is there a sensible way of applying it, to enhance it?”

Just one innovation is multiplexing: “You set a stream of luggage by a device and the photographs are sent to (3 or 4) diverse operators, not just 1 operator for every equipment. That’s just one way of seeking to compensate for this lag in personnel and raise in travellers.”

CT security scanners introduced at Ireland's Shannon airport

Shannon has four new Smiths Detection EDS CB
safety CT scanners in place.

Courtesy Shannon Team

Business situation

The charge of applying this new know-how isn’t really inexpensive, and scaled-down airports, already struggling put up-Covid, may find updates a problem.

Each and every will have their own scheduled cycle of upgrades and innovations to contemplate — covering all the numerous constraints and needs of a 21st-century hub.

When nations mandate the up grade, much more airports will be less than strain, but until finally that time, on an person airport level, it really is about the organization case. Effectiveness and buyer fulfillment is of class of paramount value, but shorter protection lines means also passengers receiving airside more quickly — and paying out a lot more dollars in airport shops and dining establishments. “It truly is various in distinct world wide locations. it will take place at distinctive speeds,” suggests Riordan.

It’s much too early to predict how quick items will progress, but with airports like Shannon and Schiphol top the way, we could see developments in next few many years — and with the market recovering, it’ll probably be faster instead than later.

CNN attained out to Heathrow for comment for this tale.

All photographs courtesy Shannon Team

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