This snapshot, taken on
04/10/2012
, shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date.
 
 
The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites.

Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Thursday, 4 October 2012

What to expect at the airport

Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, it is always sensible to arrive at the airport in good time. Knowing what to expect and allowing yourself enough time can help to make your journey stress-free.

Before you arrive at the airport

Pack only valuables and things you will need during the journey in your hand baggage.

Keep in mind the following:

  • if you carry any liquids in your hand baggage, they must be in small containers of 100ml or less and fit comfortably in a single resealable bag
  • if you are carrying gifts in your hand baggage, do not wrap them
  • do not put lighters in your hand baggage - if you carry a lighter, you must keep it on you during the flight

Contact your airport or airline if you have any questions about your flight or the baggage rules that apply.

Getting to the airport

You should leave plenty of time to get to the airport. Your time will vary on the time of day you are travelling and the size of the airport. As a general rule, you should aim to arrive:

  • three hours before long-haul flights
  • two hours before European flights
  • 90 minutes before flights within the UK and Ireland

To save time and make your journey less stressful, you should:

  • know which terminal you are flying from
  • keep tickets and passports handy
  • make sure hand baggage and liquids meet the airline’s requirements

What happens at security?

New airport security measures

Body scanners and other security measures are being introduced at UK airports

There are increased security measures in place at all UK airports, so it's best to allow plenty of time for security checks. All your hand baggage will need to be screened and you will be asked to pass through a security archway.

You may also be asked if you have packed your own bags. You must never carry anything onto a flight on behalf of someone else. If you think an item has been placed in your baggage without your knowledge, you must tell the check-in agent immediately. 

Security staff will ask you for your:

  • resealable bag of liquids - it will be screened separately from your hand baggage
  • laptop, hairdryer or other large electrical items (will be screened separately)
  • coat or jacket and your shoes

The departure lounge and airside shopping

You can take on board anything you buy from the shops in the departure lounge (sometimes called 'airside'). This includes gifts and food or drink for your journey.

If your goods are given to you in a special sealed bag, do not open it until you get to your final destination. Keep your receipt as you may be asked to show it later – if you transfer flights, for example.

There are restrictions in place for duty-free goods brought to the UK from outside the European Union (EU). There are also rules that apply when bringing goods from within the EU to the UK. Follow the links on tax and duty below to find out more.

Returning to or via the UK

Get through passport control more quickly

If you have the new 'chipped' biometric passport, you can use the ePassport gates to speed up your time at passport control

If you are travelling from the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland, all hand baggage rules apply.

Travelling from an airport in any other country

Local arrangements apply. Please check with your airline.

Special information about liquids for transit or transfer passengers

If your journey involves changing flights at an EU airport, or at an airport in Norway, Iceland or Switzerland, special restrictions apply.

You may only take liquids (including duty free) through security at your connecting airport if one of these rules apply:

  • they meet all the requirements for passengers leaving from an EU airport or an airport in Norway, Iceland or Switzerland – see hand baggage rules
  • they have been bought airside at an airport in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland or on board an aircraft operated by an EU carrier or one from Norway, Iceland or Switzerland (liquids must be in a tamper-proof bag provided by the airport/airline, unopened, and must contain a receipt that shows the item was bought on the day of travel)
  • they have been bought airside at one of the following airports where special arrangements are in place: all international airports in Canada; Dubrovnik, Pula, Rijeka, Split, Zadar and Zagreb airports in Croatia; Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia; Changi airport in Singapore and all international airports in the USA (liquids must be in a tamper-proof bag provided by the airport, unopened, and contain a receipt that shows the item was bought within the last 36 hours)

Please contact your airline if you have any questions about what liquids you can take on your journey.

EU member states

The EU member states are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Access keys