Airport staff demonstrate a liquid scanner used to identify dangerous liquids in luggage (Reuters)
Airport staff demonstrate scanner used to identify dangerous liquids in luggage (Reuters)

The European ban on airline passengers carrying liquids in their hand luggage must not be lifted next year as planned, UK airports have warned.

The European Union in Brussels hopes to lift the ban by April 2013. However, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) has said that the new generation of scanners, which look for dangerous and explosive liquids in luggage, are "not mature enough" and would be unable to handle the vast number of people travelling through airports each day.

Lifting the ban could lead to "chaos and confusion" at security checkpoints, the AOA warned.

The law currently states that passengers must not have containers with more than 100ml of liquid in their hand luggage. The ban was imposed following the discovery of a plot to blow up a transatlantic flight with a liquid bomb, as it was travelling from Heathrow to North America.

AOA chief executive Darren Caplan said: "Liquids technology has been trialled throughout Europe and the latest significant trials show that the technology is still not mature enough to handle the vast numbers of passenger travelling through our airports.

"If implemented as things stand, there would be chaos and confusion in airport central search areas.

"As well as being bad for passengers, we believe that it will put security at risk.

"We know that manufacturers of liquids-detection equipment are working hard to deliver the technology and we, of course, want to see the eventual lifting of the ban, not partially but in its entirety.

"However, the AOA and its members are concerned that this April 2013 date is more about an arbitrary deadline set by the European Parliament, rather than providing better security for passengers."

The Department for Transport (DfT) approved the new generation of airport security scanners and said it intends for the restrictions to be lifted in 2013.

"As with all security procedures, the safety and security of the travelling public is paramount and we will not allow it to be compromised," the DfT said in a statement.