The very last thing travellers want to deal with is trouble with their luggage at the airport. Restrictions apply to everyone; whether you’re checking in a bag or only taking hand luggage on board. However, many of us continue to get caught out at security – even frequent flyers.
A staggering 1 in 8 people in the UK have had something confiscated from them at an airport. It’s never a pleasant experience being held up by security and having items taken from you, especially if they’re particularly sentimental or expensive.
Items you should never take with you:
- Fireworks or Flares
- Non-Safety Matches
- Party Poppers
- Defensive Sprays (Mace and Pepper Spray)
- Chemicals or Toxic Substances (including Peroxide)
Items not allowed in hand luggage:
- Liquids over 100ml and adding up to a total of 1L (including Toothpaste, lip gloss and mascara, creams, oils and hair gel)
- Tent Pegs
- Jams, Syrups and any semi-liquid food items
- Lighters (must be placed in a separate clear bag and kept on your person at all times)
- Scissors with a blade larger than 6cm
If you ever have any doubts about an item you’re thinking about packing, it’s advisable to ring up the airport in advance and ask for more information. Not being able to take an item with you is much better than losing it.
The most common items confiscated at security include: souvenir snow globes, toiletries, wine and spirits, Nutella, expensive jams from stores such as Harrods and Fortnum and Mason and, strangely, at least 2 pairs of fluffy handcuffs are reported from London City Airport every month. Any items that resemble guns/firearms will be questioned and, most likely, taken. Frequently lost items include belts, phones, laptops and umbrellas.
What happens to lost or confiscated items?
Contrary to popular belief, lost and confiscated items do not get taken home by airport staff at the end of the day.
Items confiscated by security are usually stored for a minimum of 90 days before being donated, auctioned, recycled or destroyed. Alcohol is often emptied, Border Force is called to dispose of drugs and Police deal with any dangerous items and weapons.
As long as your item isn’t illegal or taken as criminal evidence, you can ask for them back. This Government page contains all the steps you need to take to request your confiscated items. According to Gatwick Airport, over 85% of ‘high value’ items and up to 40% of ‘lower value’ items, such as books, are returned to their owners.
Weirdest items found by security
Despite strict airport security, many people still believe they can smuggle something on board without getting caught. Throughout the years, many wonderfully weird items have been confiscated across the world.
- 200 live tarantulas were confiscated by Amsterdam Schipol Airport staff in 2012;
- A Tiger Cub was found surrounded by stuffed toys in Bangkok in 2010;
- A Human Skelton was discovered in an Italian woman’s case at Munich Airport in 2008. It was later revealed that the body belonged to a family member who died in Brazil 11 years earlier, and a valid death certificate was produced;
- An iPhone case shaped like a gun was confiscated in Stansted Airport;
- And a massive squash weighing 4st was found by Birmingham Airport officials in 2014. It was being transported from Britain to Asia.
Most expensive items to ever be confiscated
Some of the most expensive confiscated items include £40,000 in cash and $52,000 worth of gold which was oddly shaped into coat hangers in an elaborate disguise.
American security also attempted to confiscate a $200 of Cognac from Miss Zhao, a Chinese lady, who refused to hand the bottle over. Instead, she decided to drink the entire thing and ended up missing her flight and being escorted back home by family… for fairly obvious reasons we probably don’t have to spell out for you here.