UK airport security rules on liquids and laptops to be relaxed

The rules around taking liquids and large electrical items through airport security in the UK are set to change by 2024 thanks to new screening technology.

Under the current rules, passengers are required to remove tablets and laptops as well as liquids from their cabin baggage. Liquids — including sun cream, shampoo and toothpaste — are also limited to 100ml and must be in a clear plastic bag.

Over the next two years most major airports will introduce high-tech 3D scanners at checkpoints which show more detailed images of baggage.

As a result, passengers will be able to leave electrical items in their bags and the 100ml liquid limit will be increased to 2 litres.

This will mean greater convenience for travellers — as people will no longer need to spend time taking items out of their bags — and will also enhance passenger safety, as security staff will have more detailed images of what people are carrying.

“The tiny toiletry has become a staple of airport security checkpoints, but that’s all set to change,” said Transport Secretary Mark Harper.

“By 2024, major airports across the UK will have the latest security tech installed, reducing queuing times, improving the passenger experience, and most importantly detecting potential threats.”

This investment in next-generation security will provide “a great step forward” for UK air travel, said Christopher Snelling, policy director at the Airport Operators Association.

“It will make the journey through the UK’s airports easier and air travel itself more pleasant.”

Merged Italian transport groups Atlantia, Gemina to bid for Brazilian airports

The new group formed from the merger of Italian motorway group Atlantia SpA (BIT:ATL) and airport operator Gemina SpA (BIT:GEM) will consider making bids for Brazilian airports in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, Atlantia’s CEO Giovanni Castellucci told a conference call.

The statement was made after the boards of directors of both companies approved earlier a plan to combine their operations via an all-stock deal, in a move to create a global leader in the motorway and airport infrastructure sector.

Speaking at a conference call, Castellucci said that the new entity would continue investing some EUR100m (USD130.2m) to EUR200m a year in its international growth. He also explained that Atlantia had decided to combine its operations with Gemina mainly because the move would support the growth of the Rome airport hub of Fiumicino in the medium to long term. Fiumicino is owned by Aeroporti di Roma SpA (ADR), the airport operator of Rome’s airports which is controlled by Gemina.

The tie-up deal is subject to approval by both companies’ shareholders and regulatory clearance, among other conditions, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Spain’s Abertis considers to sell UK airports in move to cut debt

Spanish mobility and telecom infrastructures manager Abertis Infraestructuras SA (MCE:ABE) is considering divesting its UK airports as one of the options under a strategic review aimed at cutting its EUR14.1bn (USD18.6bn) debt, a company spokesman revealed.

Abertis has been in talks with the Welsh government concerning the sale of its Cardiff airport over the past three months and expects to get an offer of around GBP50m (USD75.8m/EUR57.3m) in March. It could also divest Belfast airport and the contract to run the Luton airport.

Abertis has hired Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) and AZ Capital SL to advise it on its alternatives related to the sale of non-core assets.

The airports division, which comprises 29 airports worldwide, accounted for 8% of the group’s total revenues of EUR4bn in 2012.

Study looks at dangers of airport secondhand smoke

Average air pollution levels from secondhand smoke directly outside designated smoking areas in airports are five times higher than levels in smoke-free airports, according to a study by the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said that the study was conducted in five large hub U.S. airports. It also showed that air pollution levels inside designated smoking areas were 23 times higher than levels in smoke-free airports. In the study, designated smoking areas in airports included restaurants, bars, and ventilated smoking rooms.

Five of the 29 largest airports in the United States allow smoking in designated areas that are accessible to the public.

The airports that allow smoking include Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Denver International Airport, and Salt Lake CityInternational Airport. More than 110m passenger boardings–about 15 % of all U.S. air travel–occurred at these five airports last year.

A 2006 Surgeon General’s Report concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Although smoking was banned on all U.S. domestic and international commercial airline flights through a series of federal laws adopted from 1987 to 2000, no federal policy requires airports to be smoke-free.

For an online version of this MMWR report, visit www.cdc.gov/mmwr