We are all too familiar with the liquid ban on carry-ons. But airline baggage policies can be pretty daunting at times. After all, the idea of parting with your prized possessions at security screening can be traumatic.
That fear – coupled with an ever-growing list of banned items on a flight – might dampen your holiday mood. Over the Christmas break last year, Australian actor Russell Crowe lashed out on Twitter after being told his children’s hoverboards were not allowed on a flight.
And in February this year, the UN aviation agency banned lithium-ion battery cargo on passenger aircraft.
These incidents beg the question: What considerations do airlines make when it comes to their baggage policy?
Firefly chief executive officer Ignatius Ong says the issue of safety and security is of utmost importance.
“We hate saying no, but our passengers’ and crew safety is our top priority. Many dangerous items are simply banned to prevent in-flight danger,” he offers.
According to Ong, tough guidelines on liquids and items considered dangerous have been implemented in recent years.
“Onboard international flights, there are certain restrictions to the amount of liquids, aerosols and gels (LAG) that passengers may include in their hand-carry luggage,” he reveals.
LAG items such as drinks, creams, perfumes, sprays, gels and toothpaste must be in containers that have a maximum capacity of 100ml/mg. And all containers must fit comfortably in a transparent resealable plastic bag. Each passenger is limited to only one transparent resealable plastic bag with a volume no greater than 1 litre.
Passengers will then need to remove the resealable bag from their hand-baggage so that it can be screened separately at the international departure gate screening point.
“Please be advised that the airport screening staff have the last word on what constitutes liquid, aerosol or gel and will ensure that all such items are removed and disposed of,” warns Ong.
Items such as battery-powered e-cigarettes, vaporisers, vape pens, atomisers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems may only be carried into the aircraft cabin (in carry-on baggage or handheld). Of course, certain pieces are absolute no-nos, says Ong.
Firearms, explosives, flammable or non-inflammable gas (aerosol paints, butane gas, lighter refills), refrigerated gas (filled aqualung cylinders, liquid nitrogen), flammable liquids (thinners, solvents) and flammable solids (matches, fire lighters) are some things that cannot be carried into the aircraft for any reason whatsoever.
“Certain items react to air pressure and heat. Imagine carrying radioactive materials, flammable solids or explosives while flying and they explode due to high pressure in mid-air. No one would ever want to be caught in such a situation,” says Ong.
British Airways head of sales (Asia Pacific) Rob Williams says most travellers are aware of the commonly restricted and banned items.
However, he notes, there are items that look less dangerous – such as hair-spray aerosols – which can only be kept in checked baggage.
Etihad Airways general manager (Malaysia) Dave Walsh says all electronic devices containing lithium batteries are only allowed in carry-on bags. This includes laptops, cameras, power banks and iPads.
The Bangkok Post reported that from 2008, the United States had declared spare lithium batteries to be dangerous items for flights, after reports showed they could overheat, catch fire and explode.
When in doubt, Williams advises, passengers should visit the respective airline’s website for the most updated information regarding baggage guidelines.
“If they are transferring to another carrier at any point in their journey, they need to check the other carriers’ websites too as guidelines differ from carrier to carrier,” he adds.
Walsh reminds passengers to carefully check local Customs regulations before packing their bags.
“Guests are not always aware that different destinations have different rules regarding the importation of food products and perishables. For example, US regulations state that no food items can be brought into the country,” he says.
Ong says it’s usually the souvenirs that catch travellers by surprise. “Places like Thailand and Indonesia are famous for exotic souvenirs and some of them are not allowed on flights,” he offers.
According to Walsh, even replicas of weapons cannot be carried on flights without prior permission and the appropriate permits. “This includes sporting equipment such as spears, air rifles and paintball guns,” he explains.
What happens, then, when passengers find themselves stuck at the security line?
“If a passenger is found to be carrying restricted items, we advise them accordingly as per the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations that we adhere to strictly. We share real-life incidents, if necessary, to make them understand better,” says Ong.
Williams acknowledges that air travel has its challenges and can sometimes cause unnecessary stress to many. To prevent any mishaps, he says, travellers should check the IATA Travel Centre website (www.iatatravelcentre.com) for all the relevant information.
For a smooth-sailing airport experience, Ong says, passengers should pack smart and always check their baggage for prohibited items.
“Always have the ‘Can I bring my…’ question to check if items like sporting goods, food, tools and others are permitted. Some carry-on items may be prohibited even if they appear not to be – like a cane with a hidden sword.”