Powders such as make-up, coffee and spices are to be banned from hand luggage on flights leaving the UK in a new effort to improve airport security.
The move, which raises the prospect of more queues and disruption for travellers, would follow in the footsteps of Australia, New Zealand and the US, where passengers were told last month to treat powders in the same way they would liquids, removing them into ziplock bags for separate scanning.
Government plans for UK airports could see travellers restricted to 12 ounces (340 grams) of powder on flights, before being subjected to extra screening, according to The Times.
The measures have been introduced in response to a foiled Isis plot to carry an explosive on board an Etihad flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi last July. The would-be terrorists were stopped at check-in.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport, which says it keeps airport security under constant review, would not confirm the plans but told the newspaper: “It is for each country to determine its own security measures based on its own assessments. We work closely with all our international partners to keep aviation security under constant review.”
There are concerns the new rules will cause confusion and delays at airports. In the US, there have been reports of passengers missing flights after being held up at security over the restrictions.
Mils Hills, associate professor in risk, resilience and corporate security at the University of Northampton, said it was luck that the Isis plot was disrupted, adding: “In itself, these extra restrictions are not going to create lots of disruption at airport security but it has the potential to feed into general public concerns about the safety of flying.”
The Transport Security Administration (TSA) in the US has also been screening food purchased by passengers to eat on flights. The TSA’s official line is that it is regularly changing security methods to tackle what it describes as an evolving terrorist threat.
“Terrorists are constantly trying to pack explosives into small everyday items,” a TSA spokesman told Telegraph Travel.
The powder restrictions follow in the same vein as rules governing flying with liquids in hand luggage, introduced in 2006 in response to a foiled terror plot to blow up flights between the UK and North America.
Three British men were convicted for conspiring to assemble improvised explosive devices on board transatlantic jets – devices containing a liquid derived from hydrogen peroxide – and detonate them above the Atlantic.
The new rules caused chaos at airports, with British Airways alone forced to cancel more than 1,500 flights.
At a glance | How to spot a terrorist, according to US airport security
Excessive yawning, strong body odour and arrogance are among the suspicious signs that US airport staff are trained to associate with potential terrorists, a leaked document revealed in 2015.
The TSA Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) guidance, used by staff to root out potential terrorists, lists a total of 17 “stress factors”, each of which are worth one point, 15 “fear factors”, worth two points, and six “deception factors”, worth three. If a traveller scores four or more points, they should be referred for selective screening, according to the instructions.
The 17 stress factors are:
- Arrives later for flight
- Avoids eye contact with security personnel
- Exaggerated yawning as the individual approached the screening process
- Excessive fidgeting, clock watching, head-turning, shuffling feet, leg shaking
- Excessive perspiration inconsistent with the environment
- Face pale from recent shaving of beard
- Facial flushing while undergoing screening
- Faster eye blink rate when individual requested to submit to screening procedures
- Increased breathing rate, panting
- Obvious “Adam’s Apple” jump when requested to submit to screening procedures
- Protruding or beating neck arteries
- Repetitive touching of face
- Rubbing or wringing of hands
- Strong body odour
- Whistling as the individual approaches the screening process
The 15 fear factors are:
- Bag appears to be heavier than expected or does not suit the individual’s appearance
- Bulges in clothing
- Cold penetrating stare
- Constantly looking at other travellers or associates
- Exaggerated emotions or inappropriate behaviour such as crying, excessive laughter or chatter
- Exaggerated, repetitive grooming gestures
- Hesitation/indecision on entering checkpoint
- Individuals who are seemingly unrelated but display identical dress or luggage
- Powerful grip of a bag or hand inside the bag
- Rigid posture, minimal body movements with arms close to side
- Scans area, appearing to look for security personnel
- Shows unusual interest in security officers and their work routine
- Displays arrogance and verbally expresses contempt for the screening process
- Wearing improper attire for location
- Widely open staring eyes
And the six deceptions factors are:
- Appears to be confused or disoriented
- Appears to be in disguise
- Asks security-related questions
- Does not respond to authoritative commands
- Maintains covert ties with others
- Repeatedly pats upper body with hands
Experts have since said the restrictions – which remain in place forbidding liquids, aerosols or gels in containers of more than 100ml – were a knee-jerk reaction.
“It’s not relevant and it should never have been introduced 10 years ago,” said Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, in an interview with Telegraph Travel in 2016.
“All they have succeeded in doing is creating longer queues at checkpoints where screeners are spending all of their time looking for restricted items rather than looking for genuine threats.”
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