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The Times, September 22, 2006

Airlines overturn ban on large bags and musical instruments
By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

LARGER pieces of hand luggage and musical instruments are to be allowed back into aircraft cabins today, after the Government relented under intense pressure from the airlines.

The Department for Transport agreed yesterday to re-instate the internationally recognised maximum sizes for hand luggage that were in force before the security alert on August 10. The ban on liquids will continue, except for baby milk and essential medicines.

Musical instruments can be taken on board but will have to be screened separately. This measure was welcomed by hundreds of professional musicians who have had to travel by road and rail to avoid being parted from their instruments.

The department abandoned plans to introduce a new bag-size limit that was bigger than that imposed five weeks ago but not as large as the standard set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Officials had told the aviation industry, at a meeting on Monday, that the international standard was too big to be X-rayed effectively. But the industry protested that the new size would cause confusion and the loss of lucrative transfer-passenger business.

Heathrow has lost more than 250,000 transfer passengers since the security restrictions were imposed last month because travellers have preferred to change flights in Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam.

The department said that the level of security threat remained at severe. It did not explain why it had decided that it was safe to return to the old bag-size limit. A spokesman said: “We have considered the views of industry representatives. It was a two-way process. We are not going to discuss the details of Monday’s meeting.”

Transport officials held a media briefing last month at which they demonstrated how difficult it was to spot bottles of liquid in larger bags. The dimensions being reintroduced today are 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in), replacing a limit of 45cm x 35cm x 16cm (18in x 14in x 6in).

Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, said: “We are pleased that the department has genuinely listened to what we have said. The smaller size that they were proposing would have been inconsistent with IATA recommended practice.”

A decision on allowing liquids has been deferred while the European Commission debates whether to ban large bottles in hand luggage.