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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

Always check with your airline or airport

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.

Laptops/electrical items

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.

Other items

Pushchairs, walking aids and wheelchairs are usually permitted in the cabin, but they will need to be security screened first.

Musical instruments

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 through security

There are restrictions on the amount of liquids you can take in your hand luggage. If possible, pack liquids in your hold baggage (luggage that you check in).

Liquids include:

  • all drinks, including water
  • liquid or semi-liquid foods, eg soup, jam, honey and syrups
  • cosmetics and toiletries, including creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lip gloss
  • 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 do take liquids in your hand luggage:

  • containers must hold no more than 100ml
  • containers should be in a single, transparent, resealable 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
  • you’re limited to 1 plastic bag per person
  • you must show the bag at the airport security point

Liquids in containers larger than 100ml generally can’t go through security even if the container is only part full. There are some exemptions.

Exemptions

You can take liquid containers larger than 100ml through security if they are for essential medical purposes, for special dietary requirements or contain baby food or baby milk.  For specific details see the Dangerous and restricted items: what you cannot take on board a flight page.

You can also take liquids bought at an airport or on a plane (eg duty free) through security if:

  • the items are sealed inside a security bag when you buy them
  • the receipt for the items is sealed in the security bag and visible

You must not open the security bag until you reach your final destination. Airport staff may need to open the items to screen the liquid at the security point.

Liquid restrictions outside the EU

Countries outside the EU might have different rules on carrying liquids as a transit or transfer passenger. You should check these rules with the relevant airlines and airports before travelling.

Airport security staff won’t let anything through if they consider dangerous - even if it’s normally allowed in hand luggage.

Lighters

You can only carry 1 lighter on board. You should put it inside a resealable plastic bag (like the ones used for liquids), which you must keep on you throughout the flight. You can’t:

  • put it in your hold luggage
  • put it in your hand luggage after screening

Baby food and baby milk

When travelling with a baby you’re allowed to take enough baby food, baby milk and sterilised water for the journey. In some cases this will be over 100ml.

Airport staff might need to open the containers to screen the liquids at the security point.

Item Allowed in hand luggage Allowed in hold luggage
Breast milk, formula milk, cow’s milk Yes Yes
Sterilised water for the baby Yes (must be in a baby bottle) Yes
Soya milk for babies Yes Yes
Baby food Yes Yes

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