IAADFS hosts workshop on liquids and gels

Liquids

Michael Payne, IAADFS executive director: “There is little information from TSA. I think we haven’t had a huge test of the change yet.”

Beginning Jan. 31, airline passengers in Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United States were allowed to start carrying some liquids in bottles onto planes. An IAADFS Duty Free Show of the Americas education session Sunday addressed the effects of the rule change, and the message delivered was “It’s too soon to know.”

“What we have discovered is that there is still much to learn,” said Michael Payne, IAADFS executive director, who facilitated the session’s discussion. “There is little information from regulatory authorities. I think we haven’t had a serious test of the change yet. I think it’s just too early.”

The rules change does affect the duty free industry because it allows passengers to carry glass containers of 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or more by volume on to flights in certain situations. When news of the change was first announced, opaque, frosted, and metal bottles were to be allowed on flights, but the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) amended the rule before it went into effect.

“The definition of ‘opaque’ is a little vague,” Payne said. “The TSA wrote to the European Union that it did not want to make the change yet, but some places in Europe can do it.”

The relaxed regulations followed an agreement among Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United States to update their security systems for boarding commercial airlines regarding the transit of liquids and gels. It was expected that the update was just phase 1 of security changes and that it would be followed shortly by phase 2, which would allow passengers to carry on even more liquids and gels, he said.

“The idea was to let technology catch up so eventually you could carry all liquids on,” Payne said.

That also is true in Europe, said Sarah Branquinho, president of the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), which has worked with IAADFS and officials at London’s Heathrow Airport on improving security measures.

The ETRC tested random samples of bottles from its warehouse to see which bottles passed security tests.

“It was a useful exercise, and I think we managed to avoid many problems because of it,” Branquinho said. “We sent messages to EU (European Union) retailers, and we want feedback by mid-March.”

What the tests revealed are that metal and tin containers, and viscous liquids, such as olive oil, cause problems for security. But many other factors also are important. For example, security staff members at airports and people working at the point of sale in duty free shops often do not understand changes in rules, she said.

When an audience member asked if the ETRC and IAADFS could work to develop a list of do’s and don’ts for carry-ons, Payne reframed his explanation about security concerns.

“The TSA and others will not approve that for public consumption. Only airports and airlines will get that kind of direction from the TSA,” he said.

Branquinho agreed that direction from security officials should not be expected soon, and that such directions could have unintended consequences.

“Any instructions would put people off because the complexity over the last years has been stupendous,” she said. “This (change in security) will reduce complexity, but we are only in the first stage of making things simple.”

“After a month, I can say that this change has gone better than expected. I hope that we will know more soon.”