Better technology means Ottawa can loosen rules for liquids on planes: Raitt

WINNIPEG – Better screening technology means air travellers may soon be able to take some liquids on Canadian flights starting in January.

Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said an international working paper by Australia, Canada and the U.S. presented to the International Civil Aviation Organization recommends relaxing the rules around carry-on liquids.

Raitt said banning all liquids from carry-on bags was always a temporary measure in response to the threat of terrorism.

Technology has now caught up and airports can better screen liquid items to see if they pose a threat, she said.

“The paper indicates technology is now in the place where we can start doing trial runs with it,” Raitt said Wednesday at a meeting of transportation ministers in Winnipeg.

Airports are to start loosening the rules on select items in January, Raitt said. The paper suggests the trial begin with essentials such as drugs required during a flight and baby food.

The restrictions on liquids, aerosols and gels followed a foiled 2006 plot to blow up a flight using liquid explosives disguised as a common beverage.

The paper said Australia, Canada and the U.S. now have technology to better screen carry-on liquids.

Banning all liquids from carry-on luggage has been inconvenient and frustrating for some air travellers, Raitt said.

“People are concerned about the long lineups,” she said.

“Sometimes people are a little frustrated — I’m going through and I forgot that bottle of perfume I bought and now I have to get rid of it because I don’t have a carry-on bag. That’s where we eventually want to get.”

Security can start screening liquids over 100 millilitres and, if they are cleared, can return them to the passenger, the paper said.

Travellers carrying liquids through security would still be taking a chance. If a liquid can’t be cleared by the technology, the paper said it could still be confiscated.

“International action on (liquids, aerosols and gels) is needed to ensure that a traveller is not unduly inconvenienced by travelling through countries with differing … screening or restrictions based regimes in place potentially resulting in items having to be surrendered,” the paper states.

“A clear and consistent international … message will assist to adequately prepare travellers.”

The trial run is just the beginning, Raitt said.

Hopefully it will lead to shorter lineups at airport security and less inconvenience for travellers down the road, she said.

“These are baby steps, just using the technology to deal with specific items,” she said. “We hope that the rest of the world adopts the practices that we are.”

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