As people approach the scanners at an airport it is not uncommon for them to have a sudden moment of panic.
Is everything in their hand luggage allowed to be there? What happens if they have something they shouldn’t? The worry can range from concern about being allowed to board, through to the possibility the item won’t be allowed aboard down to just the embarrassment of causing a delay.
Nobody wants to be that person who holds up the whole queue, having to take items out their bag, feeling like a complete newcomer to the world of flying.
Common sense might get passengers a lot of the way – there are items that are obviously not permitted in hand luggage, there are other things that everyone would know is fine.
In the middle, though, is that grey area. Let’s run through some of the common items that catch passengers out.
There will of course be some differences by nation, in this post we will look at restrictions on hand luggage that apply when departing UK airports.
If you follow these rules you are unlikely to go too far wrong abroad.
Hand Luggage vs Hold Luggage
There are naturally greater restrictions on what you can take on as hand luggage, however that does not mean that every item you can take as hand luggage can also go in the hold.
Safety matches, for instance, are allowed in hand luggage but not the hold luggage – non safety matches are not permissible in either.
For this post, we are focussing on the luggage you carry on to the plane with you.
Most Items Are Fine
Writing a huge long lost of everything you can take on board would create a page that was overly long and it still wouldn’t be complete. The list of items that can be take on board is huge.
We will take a different approach and look at the items that are either not allowed or are allowed but with a caveat.
Some items seem so obviously barred it hardly seems worth mentioning.
You cannot take fireworks in your hand luggage, or firearms, or ammunition of any kind. With some airlines you may be able to take these in your hold luggage, but you will need to check first.
You also cannot take on acids or corrosive liquids, or a poison such as rat poison.
Let’s assume a basic level of common sense from this point. If there are specific items you aren’t sure about please check on the gov.uk website.
Items that require consideration
In general it is best to pack liquids in your hold luggage.
However, if you do want to take liquids on with hand luggage then their containers must be in a transparent, resealable bag that holds no more than a litre and measures no more than 20cm x 20cm. There is a limit of one such bag per passenger.
Each individual liquid container should not be more than 100ml – typically any container larger than this will not be allowed through – exceptions can be made though for liquids that are for essential medical purposes (in which case have proof from a doctor), are for dietary requirements (again, have proof) or contain baby food or milk.
Liquids bought at the airport such as duty free can also be carried through if they are in a sealed security bag and the receipt is sealed inside and visible. Opening the bag before reaching the final destination is not permitted.
With baby milk and food, breast milk is allowed in containers up to two litres in size, however frozen breast milk is not allowed (but can be in the hold luggage).
Formula milk, sterilised water, soya milk, baby food and cooling gel packs are also allowed, but the baby must be present – acting as proof it is for them.
All items can also be in the hold luggage.
The liquid restrictions are generally well known and there are multiple signs at all airports reminding passengers of the special rules relating to carrying them on.
However, there is still greater confusion relating to electronics. What is allowed on and, specifically what can go within hand luggage?
Most common electrical items are actually fine in either hand or hold luggage – one item to watch out for is E-Cigarettes which can go in hand luggage but not the hold.
Mobile phones, tablets and laptops are all fine, so too MP3 players. Perhaps more surprisingly to some, hairdryers and straighteners can go in hand luggage, as can a travel iron and electric shaver.
All these items must be able to be turned on and that means making sure they are charged.
Cameras are generally fine, although with specialist equipment such as sizeable video cameras you should check with the airline before flying.
Battery restrictions will vary by airline – if in doubt, check.
Medical equipment and provisions are generally fine with the proviso that they are essential for the journey.
For instance you cannot carry huge quantities of liquid paracetamol on to the flight whereas you could have liquid medicine that is required in that quantity for the journey.
Proof will come in the form of supporting documentation, typically a letter from a doctor or copy of prescription.
Tablets, medicines, inhalers and syringes are permitted if they meet the criteria mentioned. For oxygen cylinders, please check with the airline before flying.
A lighter can be carried on board and placed inside a bag of the tuple used for liquids. The lighter cannot be used or even put in your hand luggage after screening so the benefits of having it go through with hand luggage are debatable.
Specialist sport equipment is generally not allowed to go in hand luggage, often because of its size and weight, one common exception would be a tennis racquet which can go in hand luggage.
It’s still probably best in hold luggage where possible though – how soon do you need to play tennis on landing?!
Thinking of taking golf clubs or a cricket bat? Put them in the hold. Unsurprisingly, the spear gun for diving or crossbow for archery competition won’t be allowed in your hand luggage.
Mobility aids are generally permitted – pushchairs, wheelchairs and walking aids for instance. Battery powered devices might be more problematic, for instance a battery powered wheelchair; check with the airline first.
Musical instruments will face restrictions based on their size, if you want to carry a large instrument on as hand luggage (perhaps not unreasonably concerned for how it will be treated as hold luggage) you will need to contact the airline. You might be required to pay for an extra seat.
Tweezers are allowed on board, so too spoons. Knives with a sharp or pointed blade aren’t and neither are scissors that have a blade longer than six centimetres.
You can bring on your knitting and sewing needles, so too your umbrella.
A big caveat
For all the rules and general allowance of some items, security staff retain an absolute right to refuse something aboard even if it might be generally permissible under the rules.
For instance, they might be reluctant to allow knitting needles aboard for someone who had no other knitting equipment and no reasonable explanation for their inclusion. What gets on the plane remains at the discretion of the security staff.
And When Just Getting Off The ground Is An Issue
Hopefully wondering whether you’re allowed to take a bottle of water on board will be your biggest stress at the airport.
Unfortunately, a more problematic concern comes from flight delays, cancellations and getting bumped from a flight.
In these circumstances, just getting to your destination can be the greatest concern.
At Flight Reclaim, we are specialists in helping you get the compensation you are entitled to when your airline lets you down and you either don’t get to board or suffer from a delay.
We have a 98% success rate, have helped more than 50,000 passengers and won them more than £20 million in combined compensation.
Importantly, we also work on a no-win, no-fee basis and have a commission rates that are among the lowest in the industry.
Hopefully you never suffer from delays or similar but, if you do, please do get in touch. At up to £540 per passenger in compensation for simply filling out a few very quick details it can be well worth your while.