Why Heathrow passengers wasted 4 years waiting at security in July and how to solve the problem

5d ago

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Heathrow passengers wasted almost four years of their collective lives faffing about with liquids in security queues last July, the airport has revealed.

In an appeal to travellers to ensure they arrive at security prepared, the airport calculated that flyers spent an extra 2.1 million minutes at security because of banned items they had left in their bags.

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Since Britain emerged from the pandemic last March, the country’s busiest airport has been in the eye of a staffing storm that has engulfed the aviation industry, leading to delays, cancellations and massive queues as demand for travel surged. 

While Heathrow says it has hired some 1,300 new staff to help cope with the summer rush, hold ups are still happening, and according to the airport passengers can help things run more smoothly.

“Heathrow data shows that at least 60% of bags rejected at security checkpoints are subjected to time-consuming hand searches because passengers haven’t removed all of their liquids from bags before screening, as set out by the Government’s rules,” the airport says.

Relted: Don’t check your bag until you read this — 7 tips to help keep an airline from losing your luggage

“Even now when all security lanes are open and fully resourced, these additional checks slow down the flow through security for all passengers. In July alone, passengers are estimated to have spent an extra 2.1 million minutes more in security at Heathrow because of leaving liquids packed in carry-on bags instead of placing all liquids into a sealed plastic bag.”

This has sparked anger among some passengers, who are outraged that Heathrow would blame its own customers for delays rather than take responsibility for a staffing crisis of its own making that has led to the chaos.

Heathrow’s response to this is that it is in everybody’s interests to work together to make the airport experience as smooth as it can possibly be.

In the spirit of working together, here are some tips to consider before heading to the airport to ensure you aren’t held up at security any longer than you need to be.

Pack your liquids correctly

This is a big one for Heathrow – the reason passengers spent four years having their bags searched for banned items.

These include:

  • make-up
  • hand sanitiser
  • lotion
  • lip balm
  • hair gel
  • toothpaste
  • suncream
  • eyedrops
  • body spray

It’s all liquid.

“If you plan on travelling with liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, pastes or anything you think might fall into one of those categories, please ensure each item is in a container no more than 100mls and all items together fit within one resealable one litre-sized transparent bag. We have bags available before all security check-points if you need one.”

Order your liquids at home, collect them “airside”

In June, TikTok user Holly Louise sent social media alight after sharing a smart hack for taking liquids on holiday — without having to check in a separate bag, or limit them to the 100ml allowance.

Related: Which TikTok airport travel hacks work and which ones will get you in trouble?

Instead, the vlogger suggested leaving all your liquids at home and packing everything else you need — before doing an online shop at Boots, then arranging to pick up the order at an “airside” branch of the pharmacy.

You can do this via Boots’ “click and collect” service, which is available at the health and beauty shop’s airside locations. The only downside to this hack is that you’d need to use all the liquids up before returning home, of course. Unless that is, you post them to your home address separately.

Have your documents ready

Ensure your travel documentation is in order before you get to the airport. That includes your passport, your boarding pass — we recommend tucking them snugly in a plastic folder.

Related: How to (Almost) Never Lose Your Luggage Again

“Many countries still require COVID tests or vaccination certificates which will need to be verified by your airline at check-in before you are able to travel,” adds Heathrow, adding that the Foreign Office travel advice service is the best place to review the latest information on the entry requirements for your destination.

Don’t arrive too early for your flight

While there has been a lot of talk about getting to the airport as early as humanly possible to ensure you make your flight no matter how sharp-elbowed the chaos might be, Heathrow’s advice is not to arrive early, just to arrive on time.

Related: How early should you arrive at the airport to avoid chaos? We asked the staff

“Do not arrive at the airport any more than three hours before the departure time of your flight,” the airport says. “Airlines will not be able to check-in your bags if you arrive more than three hours before departure.”

It adds that, if you’re concerned about your flight for any reason, look out for the staff wearing pink or purple Heathrow polo shirts, many of whom are from management moonlighting in customer service to fill the staffing shortfall.

Featured image by Ziga Plahutar / Getty Images

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