Thanks to better screening technology, Canada and other western countries are considering easing the restrictions on boarding passenger planes with liquids, starting next January, according to documents tabled with the United Nations agency which sets safety standards.
The proposal is outlined in a working paper presented to the International Civil Aviation Organization, which opened its 38th triennial Assembly Tuesday at its Montreal headquarters.
Presented jointly by Australia, Canada and the United States, the paper urges assembly members to consider gradually lifting restrictions on liquids, aerosols, and gels (LAGs) by deploying machines that are better able to detect hazardous substances.
"A technological solution now exists and the governments of Australia, Canada, the United States and the European Union are working towards implementing LAGs screening to enable a phased relaxation of restrictions," the paper says.
The first phase would begin on Jan. 31, 2014, the paper says. It would allow the screening of baby food, medications and liquids sealed in secure tamper-evident bags.
Subsequent phases would eventually end the need for small 3.4-ounce containers or sealed 1-litre bags.
The paper cautions that there may be disruptions if passengers who are allowed to put liquids in their carry-on luggage have to transit through third countries that still have tighter rules.
"International action on LAGs is also needed to ensure that a traveller is not unduly inconvenienced by travelling through countries with differing LAGs screening or restrictions based regimes in place potentially resulting in LAG items having to be surrendered," the paper says.
On Wednesday, Transport Canada would not confirm the January date identified in the paper as the start of the new rules.
"Canada, the U.S., Australia and the European Union are working with screening authorities, airlines and airports to screen a limited amount of liquids to determine to what extent the restrictions can be lifted. In no way will we implement changes that could cause a safety risk to Canadian air travelers," spokeswoman Roxane Marchand said in an e-mail.
She said the department has no further comments at this point.
The ban on liquids, gels and aerosols started in 2006 after British authorities foiled a plot to hide explosives in soft-drink bottles and blow up passenger planes bound for Canada and the United States.
The restrictions were meant to be temporary until better screening technology became available.
The new rules come as U.S. officials are looking at ways to end another contentious rule, the ban on using portable wireless devices during flights.
According to the New York Times, an advisory panel of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is expected to recommend rolling back restrictions to allow passengers to read read e-books, listen to podcasts or watch videos. Making phone calls or using e-mails and text messages would still be forbidden.