Why Heathrow passengers wasted 4 years waiting at security in July — and how to solve the problem

Aug 6, 2022

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Last month, Heathrow Airport (LHR) passengers wasted almost four years of their collective lives fussing with restricted items such as liquids in security lines, the airport has revealed.

In an appeal to travelers to arrive at security prepared, the airport said it had calculated that flyers, in total, spent an extra 2.1 million minutes at security because of banned items they had left in their bags.

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The country’s busiest airport has been grappling with a staffing shortage that has engulfed the aviation industry, leading to delays, cancellations and massive lines as demand for travel has surged.

While Heathrow said it has hired some 1,300 new staff to help cope with the summer rush, delays are still happening — and according to the airport’s appeal, passengers need to do their part to help things run more smoothly.

“Heathrow data shows that at least 60% of bags rejected at security checkpoints are subjected to time-consuming hand searches because passengers haven’t removed all of their liquids from bags before screening, as set out by the [British] Government’s rules,” the airport reports.

Related: Don’t check your bag until you read this — 7 tips to help keep an airline from losing your luggage

“Even now when all security lanes are open and fully resourced, these additional checks slow down the flow through security for all passengers. In July alone, passengers are estimated to have spent an extra 2.1 million minutes more in security at Heathrow because of leaving liquids packed in carry-on bags instead of placing all liquids into a sealed plastic bag.”

While some might question why Heathrow would blame its own customers for delays during a time of staffing issues, the airport maintains it’s in everybody’s interests to work together to make the airport experience as smooth as it can possibly be. 

So, in the spirit of working together, here are some of TPG’s tips to consider before heading to the airport to ensure you aren’t held up at security any longer than you need to be.

In This Post

Pack your liquids correctly

This is a big one for Heathrow (and other airports) — and the main reason why passengers have spent so much time getting their bags searched.

Some of the liquid culprits include makeup, hand sanitizer, lotion, lip balm, hair gel, toothpaste, sunscreen, eye drops and body spray.

“If you plan on traveling with liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, pastes or anything you think might fall into one of those categories, please ensure each item is in a container no more than 100 ml (3 ounces) and all items together fit within one resealable, one liter-sized transparent bag. We have bags available before all security check-points if you need one,” according to the airport.

Order your liquids from home, collect them ‘airside’

In June, TikTok user Holly Louise shared a smart hack for taking liquids on vacation without having to check a separate bag or limit them to fit size restrictions.

Related: Which TikTok airport travel hacks work and which ones will get you in trouble?

The vlogger suggested UK travelers leave all their liquids at home and instead place an online order at Boots, the British pharmacy chain. You can then arrange to pick up the order at an “airside” branch of the pharmacy, past security.

Boots’ “click and collect” service is available at the health and beauty shop’s airport locations. The only downside to this hack is that you’d need to use all the liquids up before returning home or mail them back to your home address.

This is a hack that could work well for other departure cities and destinations as well, depending on what services are available at or near the airport.

Have your documents ready

Ensure your travel documentation is in order before you get to the airport. That includes your passport and your boarding pass — we recommend tucking them snugly in a plastic folder.

Related: How to (almost) never lose your luggage again

“Many countries still require COVID tests or vaccination certificates which will need to be verified by your airline at check-in before you are able to travel,” according to Heathrow. The airport notes that the UK’s Foreign Office travel advice service is a good place to review the latest information on the entry requirements for your destination.

Don’t arrive too early for your flight

While there has been a lot of talk about getting to the airport as early as humanly possible to ensure you make your flight, Heathrow’s advice is instead to just arrive on time.

Related: Travel is back, and so are the crowds. How early do you need to get to the airport?

“Do not arrive at the airport any more than three hours before the departure time of your flight,” the airport says. “Airlines will not be able to check in your bags if you arrive more than three hours before departure.”

It adds that, if you’re concerned about your flight for any reason, look out for the staff wearing pink or purple Heathrow polo shirts (many of whom are from management but working in customer service to fill the staffing shortfall).

Featured photo by Ziga Plahutar/Getty Images.

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