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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
Gatwick returns to near-normality
By Alexis Akwagyiram
BBC News, Gatwick Airport

Hand luggage restrictions on flights out of the UK have been relaxed, following five days of heightened security in the aftermath of last Thursday's terror plot fears.

But is the message about the change to the rules getting through to passengers?

Hand luggage box
Passengers check the size of their bags using boxes provided

The experiences of travellers in Gatwick Airport's departure hall suggest that the chaos caused by luggage restrictions in recent days is easing.

Clear signs outlining the permissible contents of hand luggage, as well as the dimensions of bag, are ubiquitous - as are helpers wearing fluorescent jackets or bright yellow T-shirts reading "can I help?".

And verbal reminders delivered at regular intervals over the airport PA system make the message almost inescapable.

Peter Larsen, a Danish student travelling to Toronto, said he was "totally surprised" by the lack of delays.

"I started my journey in Copenhagen this morning and I was worried about what I would face when I got to the UK.

"I was concerned about bringing my laptop because I thought I might not be allowed to have it as hand luggage. But I checked on the internet before setting off and it was fine.

"I have noticed more security checks - for example, they wanted to see my passport when I was in the queue as well as my driving licence, but this just made me feel safe and the wait doesn't seem much longer than usual."

One member of airport staff said the message about the new rules was definitely getting through, although the status of make-up seemed to be a grey area in people's minds.

Amy Williams
Most people just seem to be happy that they are allowed to take a bag through
Amy Williams
Airport worker

Amy Williams, a BAA project assistant who volunteered to help in the departure hall, said: "People, mainly women, are asking about cosmetics.

"Many don't seem to realise that lipstick and lip-gloss are not allowed, and medical creams are only allowed if they are prescribed.

"A few women have been a little upset about the situation. Some were not told at check-in and then found that they had to throw away certain items after a security check.

"Generally, most people are coming with clear plastic bags just to be on the safe side and others bring small bags for hand luggage, so size has not been an issue. Most people just seem to be happy that they are allowed to take a bag through."

Rachel Miller, who was waiting for a Ryanair flight to Dublin with her two young children, pointed out that she was not quite sure what kind of liquid she was allowed to take into a plane for her 18-month-old son.

A luggage diagram

She brought a baby-bottle, but did not know whether it would be confiscated.

She said she was a little "nervy" about flying when air travel was at the centre of security fears and added that the departure hall was "chaotic", although not much more so than during a usual summer.

Mrs Miller said she had been prepared for the worst, having seen footage of crowded airports on television news bulletins, so any wait did not seem particularly taxing.

On Tuesday only 11 flights, all of which were domestic British Airways services, were cancelled and there were few delays.

A spokesman for airport operator BAA said: "The situation is changing all the time and we are in a busy period because it is the peak summer season.

"At this time of the year we are accustomed to 120,000 passengers and 800 flights a day, so 11 cancellations isn't too much."

I don't believe anyone has the capability to bring down planes in the Atlantic
Charles Jarah

He said some people were not entirely sure about the new system, but he pointed to large numbers of staff on hand to provide assistance.

The sense that a degree of normality maybe returning to the experience of air travel was reflected in the observations of one pensioner.

Charles Jarah, a 78-year-old retired engineer from Pinner, north London, cast doubt over the existence of an alleged terror plot.

"I don't believe anyone has the capability to bring down planes in the Atlantic. To be honest, I think it's a hoax. But they succeeded in slowing people down."

His wife, Elizabeth, nodded, chiming in: "The Forest Gate incident didn't inspire much faith in this kind of investigation. After all, didn't they use 250 police officers to go into one house?"

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