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

Aug 6, 2022

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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.

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card

Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy Bonus Points after spending $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 8/31/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.99% - 26.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.