All UK airports have tight security procedures, including precise rules on passengers' hand baggage allowance and what is and isn't permitted to be carried within the hand baggage. Hand baggage is luggage that passengers take on board the plane with them, as opposed to hold baggage, which is taken by the airline staff at the check-in desk. Passengers who know the rules set by the airline they are flying with, and prepare for their trip accordingly, will experience a smoother, quicker security check and boarding process.
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Some airlines have a hand baggage gauge at the check-in desk; your item of hand baggage must fit inside this or else you will not be allowed to take it on board the plane. All hand baggage will be screened before you board. Medical equipment, musical instruments and electrical items, such as hair dryers or laptops, will be screened separately.
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As of 29 April 2010, there was no longer a maximum size set by the Department for Transport for items of hand baggage. Each individual airline has its own set size limits, which you should check before you travel. British Airways and Easyjet allow one piece of hand baggage per person, which must be no larger than 56cm by 45cm by 25cm, plus one handbag or laptop which must be no larger than 45cm by 36cm by 20cm and must fit underneath the seat in front of you on the plane. If you are travelling with Ryanair, the maximum size of your one piece of permitted hand baggage is 55cm by 40cm by 20cm. KLM permit their economy passengers one piece of hand baggage measuring no bigger than 55cm by 25cm by 35cm; their business passengers are permitted an additional piece measuring no bigger than 45cm by 20cm by 35cm. Virgin economy passengers are allowed one piece of hand baggage measuring no more than 23cm by 36cm by 56cm; their business passengers are allowed to take two pieces of this size on board.
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Some airlines have no weight restrictions for hand baggage, such as British Airways and Easyjet. The maximum permitted weight on Ryanair flights is 10kg; on KLM flights it is 12kg for economy passengers and 18kg for business passengers; on Virgin flights it is 6kg for economy passengers and 16kg for business passengers.
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Aside from size and weight allowances, there are further restrictions regarding hand baggage. While some airlines have specific guidelines in relation to handbags, laptops, umbrellas and other additional items available on their website, others do not, therefore it is sensible to check with your airline before you travel. Medical equipment is permitted provided it is essential to your journey and you must have a letter from your doctor or some other supporting documentation to confirm this. Pushchairs and wheelchairs are permitted in the cabin. If you are intending to travel with a large musical instrument, you should check this with your airline first; you may have to purchase an extra seat.
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Any liquids you take in your hand baggage are restricted to 100ml per container. This includes all drinks, syrups, toiletries (in cream, lotion, paste, gel and spray form), make up, perfumes and contact lens solutions. Additionally, all containers must fit comfortably into a single plastic bag, which must be transparent and re-sealable, hold no more than one litre and measure around 20cm by 20cm. This will be inspected at the security point and any containers larger than 100ml will be immediately confiscated. Exceptions to the 100ml limit are medicines essential to your journey, baby milk, baby food, sterilised water in a baby bottle and all liquids purchased after passing through security at the airport.