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Europe to Lift Airplane Liquids Ban in 2013

Europe's air passengers will be able to take on board water bottles, sprays and gels from April 2013 on when a general ban on liquids will be replaced by better screening technology, the European Commission said on Thursday (29 April).

"This package takes a significant step forward in signaling the beginning of the end for the current restrictions on liquids in cabin baggage, with a clear and final deadline of April 2013," said Siim Kallas, the commission vice president in charge of transport.

In the upcoming three years, EU airports will be required to install new technology capable of detecting liquid explosives, so as to allow for the current ban to be lifted.

The restrictions go back to 2006, when UK authorities foiled a transatlantic bomb plot involving liquid explosives. Three British citizens were convicted last year of planning to blow up at least seven planes on a single day using liquid explosives smuggled aboard in soft-drink bottles.

Drinks, gels, pastes, lotions and sprays in bottles of less than 100ml are currently allowed on planes if they are carried in clear plastic bags. But many travellers are still frustrated when they have to throw away expensive perfumes, contact lenses cleaners or even marmalade jars because the containers are larger than the allowed size.

Rules on items purchased in duty-free shops before boarding are also confusing, especially for those who travel in and out of Europe. Some have seen their gifts and expensive alcohol bottles confiscated, despite assurances given by the shop vendors that this would not happen.

"This is about building on the experience of recent years and streamlining procedures, so that on a daily basis security controls are easier for industry to implement," Mr Kallas explained. "For passengers, the aim is also to simplify wherever possible the necessary security controls," he added.

Starting next year, liquids purchased at duty-free shops outside the EU or aboard non-EU airlines will be allowed in hand luggage, provided they are sealed and screened before boarding.

Other envisaged measures are the elimination of double security checkpoints in the EU, simplifying and harmonising procedures and ensuring common minimum standards of security training for aviation security staff.

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