Some encouraging news for those who like to travel with liquids and gels in quantities greater than 3 ounces/100 ml in carry-on luggage: The International Civil Aviation Organization has predicted an end to the restrictions within the next two years.
“In the next two years (the ban) will end,” ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin told AFP ahead of the UN organization’s 37th general assembly, which kicks off in Montreal on Tuesday.
New equipment capable of detecting explosives in water bottles, makeup kits or toothpaste tubes, for example, would be installed at most airport security checkpoints by 2012, he explained.
This timeframe is more aggressive than the timeline the European Union has set for the lifting of the ban, the very-specific date of April 29, 2013:
By 29 April 2013 at the latest, all liquids will be allowed in cabin baggage and will be screened. By that date, the current restrictions on the carriage of liquids in cabin baggage will end. The transition period until 2013 is necessary to allow for a roll-out of liquids screening equipment at all EU airports.
As a preliminary step in phasing out the restrictions on liquids, as from 29 April 2011 at the latest, duty-free liquids purchased at third country airports or on board third country airlines and carried in tamper evident bags will be allowed as cabin baggage and will be screened. Today, these liquids are only allowed in cabin baggage if they come from selected third countries (United States, Canada, Singapore and Croatia).
Unfortunately, it will apparently take a little more convincing (or lobbying) to get the DHS and TSA on board with that timetable:
[U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano told The Associated Press she’s surprised by International Civil Aviation Organization Secretary General Raymond Benjamin’s remarks that security equipment in most airports will allow for the ban to be lifted soon.
Napolitano said the technology isn’t ready.
“I think that’s premature,” Napolitano said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Sigh. It feels like we’ve made so little progress in the world since 2006. Back in 2008, there were liquid bomb testers in Japanese airports, and we still don’t see them in the US or Europe.
However, the fact that the ICAO is publicly making statements pertaining to a timeline for phase-out is strangely encouraging. I know the ICAO has no jurisdiction over the screening of passengers at airports, but the transportation and security leaders of forty governments attended their last conference. This isn’t a bunch of crackpots, and the leaders didn’t fall off the turnip truck.
Let’s revisit this in two years, to see if we’re really any closer to lifting the ban. Until then, continue using your 3-1-1 freedom baggies.