Despite it being over a decade since restrictions were placed on the amount of liquid passengers can take into aircraft cabins in their hand luggage, there is still plenty of confusion about what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Even though the limits are less strict than they were when the new rules first came into place in 2006, even the most regular of flyers can still fall foul of the restrictions.

So here’s a simple summary what you can bring with you, explaining the complex rules. It’s worth noting that they apply to all flights and routes within the UK, whether domestic or international, on a helicopter or a 747.

Which hand luggage liquids are restricted in the UK?

It’s virtually impossible for airport security staff to tell which liquids are safe and those that might not be. With this in mind, the following list of liquids can only be taken on-board aircraft in hand luggage in strictly limited amounts:

  • Drinks – whether carbonated or still, including water
  • Sprays – this includes hairspray, spray-on deodorants and shaving foam.
  • Toiletries – including toothpaste, hair gels, liquid hand soap and shower gels
  • Make-up – including creams, perfumes, oils, lotions, lip gloss and other cosmetics
  • Contact Lens Solution – and other saline and similar solutions

How much of these restricted liquids can be taken on-board UK aircraft?

The good news is there is no outright ban so you don’t have to travel without your favourite make up or drink or hair gel. The bad news is you can only take a maximum of 100ml of any of these liquids on a flight.

What’s more, each must be placed in its own 100ml container. If you try and put your liquid into a bigger container, it is likely to be confiscated by airport security staff. This is because the size of bottles taken into aircraft cabins matters just as much as the nature of the liquid that’s inside them.

These are not the only limitations. All your 100ml containers need to be carried on board in a clear, plastic bag that’s at most 20cm x 20cm. The maximum amount of liquid you can take onto a flight is 1 litre. That’s 10 x 100ml containers.

You can only take one of these bags on board, and it must be easy to open and close. If you try and cram too many containers into your bag and can’t close it, chances are your liquids won’t be coming with you on your trip.

Yes, the rules are complicated, and airports realise that. That’s why many have the correct sized bags available at the security gates.

What are the restrictions on liquids bought in Duty Free?

Wanting to buy a bottle of single malt for a friend, or take some perfume to a relative? Don’t worry. Liquids bought in Duty Free stores – including perfumes and alcoholic beverages – are exempt from these restrictions, so can be carried on as hand luggage, even if they are in bottles bigger than 100ml. However, these items must be:

  • Sealed in an airport issue security bag
  • Unopened
  • Accompanied by a receipt from the Duty Free store

Even if you take these steps, you can still expect your items to be re-checked and possibly confiscated if you’re transferring flights and entering a country with different liquid restrictions.

Are e-cigarettes and lighters subject to the same limitations?

The short answer is yes. You can only carry one of each into the cabin. They must be in a sealed plastic bag when you go through security, and then taken out of the bag when you board.

It’s worth remembering the reasons for these restrictions. Yes, they are specific and require a little extra thought when packing your hand luggage. But the extra security they provide all air travellers makes the effort worthwhile.

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