Sun, Feb 27, 2011 - Page 6 News List

EU’s plan to ease liquids ban flawed: US airport officials

AP, WASHINGTON

A EU plan to partially lift a ban on passengers carrying liquids onto planes has US airport officials worried that it will create a security gap and may confuse passengers traveling to the US.

Beginning on April 29, the EU plans to allow airline passengers carrying wine, perfume and other liquids purchased at duty-free shops in airports outside Europe to take those items into airline cabins with them when they catch connecting flights at about two dozen European airports.

That means, for example, that travelers flying from Asia and Africa to European airports to connect to flights to the US can keep liquids, aerosols and gels purchased in airport duty-free shops in their carry-on bags the entire way. The items will be screened at European airports before passengers board connecting flights.

Christopher Bidwell, vice president for security and facilitation at the Airports Council International-North America, said the effectiveness of the technologies European airports will use to screen liquids for explosives is unclear.

There are several new technologies that European airports plan to use, he said, but none have undergone real world testing, only laboratory tests.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) hasn’t said whether passengers arriving in the US from Europe with liquids purchased outside the EU will be allowed to board domestic flights with those items, but that appears unlikely, Bidwell said in an interview on Friday.

He said he was concerned passengers would become frustrated or angry if they have carried expensive items on board multiple flights only to be told they have to dump them in order to board a domestic flight to reach their final destination.

“This issue points to why we have to focus on making aviation security more efficient,” said Geoff Freeman, executive vice president of the US Travel Association. “Traveling has become too much of a hassle, and that’s hampering our economic recovery.”

EU airports and some European airlines have also expressed concern about the plan.

TSA spokesman Nick Kimball provided a statement that said the agency is working with the EU on security matters. He declined to answer further questions.

Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association, which represents major US airlines, said it hoped Europe and the US would “harmonize requirements to appropriately accommodate security and passenger-processing considerations.”

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