An interview with Jim Fitzpatrick, UK Aviation Minister

Posted: 31 July 2007 | Jim Fitzpatrick, UK Aviation Minister | No comments yet

The minister answers our questions on the subject of current UK security restrictions with regard to baggage and the carrying of liquids aboard aircraft.

The minister answers our questions on the subject of current UK security restrictions with regard to baggage and the carrying of liquids aboard aircraft.

What restrictions have been put in place regarding baggage and the carrying of liquids?

The current restrictions on passenger cabin baggage and liquids have been in force at UK airports since November 2006.

Passengers can take small quantities of liquids through security. But only if they are carried in separate containers no larger than 100ml, and the containers fit comfortably within a single, clear, re-sealable plastic bag no larger than 20cm x 20cm (eg a freezer bag).

Passengers are also limited to one carry-on bag – and that includes handbags and purses – so make sure everything you need for the plane can fit into a single bag that is no more than 56cm x 45cm x 25cm, including wheels, handles and external pockets.

Large electrical items, laptops or hairdryers for example, have to be screened separately, so they should be kept accessible for presentation.

How do these restrictions affect the flow of passengers through an airport?

A lot of that will depend on how well prepared passengers are when they arrive at the airport.
The more passengers that arrive with appropriate cabin baggage and with as much as possible checked into the hold, then the more efficient airports will be at getting them through.

What extra equipment is needed to deal with these new measures?

Generally, airports have been investing in recruiting and training new personnel and investing in new equipment. Some airports are also redesigning and increasing the number of search areas to deal with the increasing number of passengers.

Liquids can still be purchased airside, what screening process are these items subjected to?

All products sold airside are subject to security control. For obvious reasons, though, we are unable to reveal the details of our screening procedures.

Would it be simpler to ban all liquids from carry-on luggage?

That was the situation for much of last Autumn.

However, we also recognised that this created problems for passengers and following discussions with our European partners, new measures were introduced that allowed a small amount of some liquids back into the cabin while at the same time maintaining robust security standards.

Are the restrictions creating new jobs within the airports?

Where appropriate, several airports have increased staff numbers, particularly at security points and across customer services. However, resources are a matter entirely for operators to decide.

Have the extra costs involved caused aviation taxes to rise?

No. Security costs are borne by the industry.

Has enough been done to ensure that passengers are aware of the extra security measures?

The DfT has run several national press campaigns since last November, particularly over the peak periods of Christmas, Easter and the school summer holidays. We would encourage airlines and airports to continue to inform their customers about the regulations as much as possible and prepare them for what to expect.

It is in everyone’s interest that customers get through the security checks efficiently and safely.
Will lack of awareness lead to delays?

Some airports have experienced delays at peak times. We would encourage travellers to prepare for their journey before leaving for the airport.

Do you think that these increased security measures are causing people to consider alternative modes of transport?

Where convenient alternatives are available, inevitably some passengers will look at their options. But other issues such as ticket pricing and availability will still play a major part in an individual’s travel choice.

Jim Fitzpatrick

Born in 1952 in Glasgow, Jim moved to London in 1974 and joined the London Fire Brigade, leaving in 1997. He was elected Labour MP for Poplar and Canning Town in 1997. Jim is married to Dr Sheila Fitzpatrick and has one son and one daughter from a previous marriage. Jim is a devoted football fan and supports West Ham United, he also enjoys cricket, rugby and sports generally. In addition to this he supports a number of charities.

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