It’s been over a decade since security restrictions were brought in to limit the amount of hand luggage liquids passengers are allowed to take on a flight, but many flyers remain confused over the amount of food, drink, cosmetics, sprays, pastes and gels you’re allowed on a plane, and how they need to be packed.
The official restrictions are published on the government website, but we’ve created this quick and simple guide to taking liquids on planes, explaining what you can and can’t pack in your hand luggage and what you need to do at security, as well as the special rules for baby milk and food, medication, special diets, and duty-free products.
There are a number of basic rules when it comes to taking liquids on flights in your hand luggage. The main one is that you must not take any more than 100ml of a restricted liquid onto a plane, and those liquids should be placed into individual 100ml containers. All containers must fit into a clear, resealable plastic bag no larger than 20cm by 20cm, and each passenger may only have one bag.
Food and drink
While you are allowed to take most types of solid food onto a plane, there are clear restrictions on liquid or semi-liquid foods, which all need to adhere to the 100ml rule. These could include soup, jam, honey and syrups.
Even if it’s just water, every type of drink is restricted to 100ml and comes under the same rules as all other hand luggage liquids.
Baby food and milk
Airlines and airports understand that parents travelling with babies will need more than 100ml of milk, sterilised water or food for a flight. Breast milk, formula milk, cow’s milk, sterilised water, soya milk and baby food are all allowed in hand luggage, as long as individual containers of breast milk hold no more than 2,000ml. The only milk you’re not allowed to carry on a plane in your hand luggage is frozen breast milk.
Special dietary requirements
If you have certain liquids you need to follow on a medically prescribed diet (ie. one that a doctor has told you to follow), you should be allowed to take these liquids on the plane. As with medication, you’ll need a letter from your doctor explaining why you need to follow the diet. Airport staff may also need to open the containers to check the liquids at security.
Cosmetics and toiletries
Many hand luggage toiletries are also restricted, including creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lip gloss.
Also limited are sprays such as shaving foam, hairspray and spray deodorants. As you’ll have trouble getting these liquids into a clear bottle, it’s best to put all aerosols and sprays in your hold luggage.
Any type of paste, including toothpaste, needs to be kept down to 100ml or less.
Whether it’s hair gel, shower gel or gel used in ice packs, they all count as liquids and so are restricted to 100ml.
If you have bought some duty-free products such as alcohol, cosmetics or perfume in the airport or on the plane, you are allowed to take these through security as long as the items are sealed inside a security bag when you buy them and the receipt is sealed inside the bag and visible. This bag must remain sealed until you pass through security at your final destination.
Bottle and container sizes
The key figure for hand luggage liquids is 100ml. This also goes for the size of bottle or containers they are held in. So, aside from a few exceptions, if your bottle or container is larger than 100ml, you won’t be able to take the liquid through, even if the container is only part-full.
Rules on medication
Many people need to take over 100ml of liquid medication in their hand luggage, so there are special rules in place. Whether it’s essential medicines, cooling gel packs or inhalers, you’ll need a letter from your doctor explaining why you need the medication or a copy of your prescription. Airport staff may also need to open the containers to check the liquids at security.
You are allowed one lighter on board, but this must be carried in your hand luggage and placed in a clear, resealable plastic bag. Lighters are not allowed in luggage that’s to go in the hold.