Airport Execs Call for Internation Collaboration on Luggage Restrictions

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa_Global airport executives called on governments Tuesday to ensure international coordination on restrictions on liquids in hand luggage.

Executives at the annual world assembly of the Airport Council International, an international association of the world's airports meeting in Cape Town this week, made the call following the introduction of new measures by the European Union this week.

Director-general Robert J Aaronson said while adopting a uniform approach for Europe was a positive step, airports were concerned the new ruling could have a serious affect on airport facilities and systems as well as operational processes, passenger service levels and duty-free retail concessions.

"At a time when our industry is striving to achieve ever greater efficiency and cost effectiveness, we must energetically address this issue that affects passengers, airports and airlines," he said.

As of Nov. 6, passengers in Europe can take liquid items in cabin luggage, provided the liquid is in containers smaller than 100 milliliters and are able to fit into a transparent sealable bag no larger than 1 liter in size.

The rules also say liquids over 100mls purchased on the same day of travel at airports in Europe are permitted through European security checks. Duty free and other airport retailers will use special tamper proof bags to facilitate this process.

But one constraint that has far reaching implications is that passengers will not be allowed to carry duty free items that have been purchased outside the European Union zone through a European transfer point.

"There is a risk that passengers will be confused by the differences between intra-European and international allowances, and they will certainly be frustrated if items are confiscated at security checkpoints," Aaronson said.

He said it would also put duty free concessionaires at a disadvantage and any loss in sales would reduce critically needed revenues for airports.

Aaronson said airports were taking action to make passengers aware of the changes and there had been minimal disruption.

"But these are short term actions and we need long term solutions," he said.

The council resolved to call upon governments to consult with airports, airlines and industry stakeholders and then move urgently to establish a global security framework through the International Civil Aviation Organization.

"By harmonizing our solutions to security requirements, we address a basic prerequisite for providing the quality service that passengers expect," Aaronson said.

The council represents airport interests and aims to foster cooperation among member airports and other partners in world aviation.

<<Associated Press WorldStream -- 11/08/06>>