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New UK airport procedures create chaos for business travellers

3.30am hand luggage ban extends to laptops, phones, PDAs, BlackBerry devices, electronic car keys and even newspapers.

Department for Transport

Home Office

Home Secretary John Reid

In response to the threat the Department for Transport issued new security operating instructions at 3.30am to all airlines flying out of UK airports.

All conventional hand luggage must now be checked in to the hold of the plane, including all laptop computers, portable DVD players, PDAs, BlackBerry and other email devices, smart phones, cameras, car keys with integrated remote central locking controls and travel alarm clocks.

The implications of the new security announcements are huge for companies and business professionals travelling with these items. Almost all laptop bags are not designed to be carried in the hold of a place, and lack the additional padding and locks needed to protect business electronics. Equally, laptop computers, mobile phones and other battery-operated business communications devices are not designed to withstand the rough treatment usually associated with checked-in luggage, or the low temperatures experienced in unheated luggage holds. The luggage hold of an aeroplane will drop below freezing point at high altitude.

The ban even extends to duty free items purchased in the airport, books, magazines, newspapers and other paperwork.

Only the barest essentials - including passports and wallets - will be allowed to be carried on board in transparent plastic bags which are being handed out by airport staff at check-in. In addition, all passengers will be hand-searched and have their shoes X-rayed before boarding their flight.

UK airlines have reacted quickly to comply with the new security measures.

"British Airways, acting on instruction from the UK Government, wishes to advise passengers that no items of hand baggage can be carried on board any aircraft departing any UK airport," the airline said in an emailed statement.

BA confirmed that no electrical or battery powered items would be allowed in the cabin, including laptops and mobile phones.

"This is a precautionary measure. We are doing everything possible to disrupt any further terrorist activity. However this will mean major disruption at all UK airports from today" Reid said.

Carriers not flying on transatlantic routes were also affected. Low-cost airlines Ryanair and easyJet said significant delays should be expected at major low-cost airline airports including Luton, Stansted, Southampton and Bristol.

"Our first-wave flights are currently in the process of taking off. We did not have aircraft in the air when we heard about this first thing this morning," an easyJet spokesman said.

Airport operator BAA is struggling to cope with the demand for online information about the new hand luggage restrictions and delays at aiports. the main BAA web site is currently down, replaced with a simple page containing the following message:

"Due to the heightened security at UK airports, the BAA website is currently experiencing a high level of people visiting the site for information. All BAA airports remain open but passengers should expect delays."

Around 20 people were arrested overnight in London in connection with the plans which are believed to involve detonating explosives smuggled onto planes in hand luggage.

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