Air travel hand baggage rules
There are increased security measures in place at all UK airports, with strict rules on what you can and can't carry in your hand baggage. It is important to pack with this in mind to avoid unnecessary delays at airport security.
Size and type of hand baggage allowed
Hand baggage is luggage that you carry on the plane with you, while hold baggage is luggage that you check-in. All baggage items, including hand baggage, must be screened, regardless of size.
From 29 April 2010, the Department for Transport no longer sets a maximum size for items of hand baggage. You should always check size limits with your airline and airport before you travel. Airlines may also have their own rules about the number of bags you are allowed to take on the aircraft. It's best to contact them if you have any questions.
You're allowed to take electrical items (like laptops and hairdryers) in your hand baggage, but they have to be removed and screened separately.
Essential medical equipment
You are allowed to bring medical equipment if it is essential for your journey. The equipment will be screened separately and must be accompanied by supporting documentation from a qualified medical professional, such as a letter from your doctor.
Pushchairs, walking aids and wheelchairs are usually permitted in the cabin, but they will need to be security screened first.
If you plan on travelling with a large musical instrument, you should contact your airline before booking. You may need to make special arrangements, like buying an extra seat. Any musical instrument you bring with you will need to be screened separately.
Taking liquids in your hand baggage
Wherever possible you should pack liquids in your hold baggage, as there are restrictions on the amount you can take in your hand baggage.
- all drinks, including water, soup and syrups
- cosmetics and toiletries, including creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lipsticks
- sprays, including shaving foam, hairspray and spray deodorants
- pastes, including toothpaste
- gels, including hair and shower gel
- contact lens solution
- any other solutions and items of similar consistency
If you need certain liquids during the flight, you can take them into the cabin in limited quantities as follows:
- containers must hold no more than 100ml
- containers must be carried in a single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm
- contents must fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed
- the bag must not be knotted or tied at the top
- each passenger can carry only one of these bags
- the bag must be presented for examination at the airport security point
Containers larger than 100ml (excluding essential medicines) will not be allowed through the security point even if they are only part full.
Airport security staff won’t let through anything they consider dangerous - even if it’s normally allowed in hand luggage.
Liquids for transit or transfer passengers
You can carry liquids through passenger screening points at UK airports as long as they were bought at an EU airport or on an EU-registered airline.
Liquids must be in a tamper-proof bag given at the airport or by the airline and unopened. You must have a receipt to prove that it was bought in the last 36 hours.
Outside of the EU, different countries have different rules on carrying liquids as a transit or transferring passenger. You can find out what they are when you check in for your flight.
One lighter per person may be carried on a flight. Lighters are considered to be liquids and should be put inside the plastic bag or screened separately. You must keep the lighter on your person throughout the flight.
It is very important that you do not:
- place it in your hold baggage
- return it to your hand baggage after screening
Essential medicines, including inhalers and liquid dietary foodstuffs
You are allowed to carry essential medicines of more than 100ml in your hand baggage, but you will need:
- prior approval from the airline and departure airport
- supporting documentation from a relevant qualified medical professional (for example: a letter from your doctor or prescription)
Remember to take only what you need for your journey. Extra supplies and larger containers of medicine can go in your hold baggage.
Baby food and baby milk
You are allowed to take baby food, baby milk and sterilised water in your hand baggage. This includes:
- soya milk for babies
- sterilised water for the baby (must be in a baby bottle)
- formula, breast milk or cow milk specifically for babies
- baby food of various consistencies
You are allowed to take enough for the journey. In some cases this may be over 100ml. The adult carrying the baby food or milk may be asked to verify it by tasting.
Liquids bought at the airport
You can take into the aircraft cabin any liquids you buy after passing through security, as these items go through a separate screening process. This includes bottled water, wines and spirits and fragrances and cosmetics of any size.