European plans to lift a ban on carrying duty-free liquids in hand luggage through airports have descended into farce after several states opted to keep the restrictions in place.

As a result, the ban on liquids purchased in third countries, originally scheduled to be lifted on 29 April, will remain for the time being, says European transport commissioner Siim Kallas.

Kallas says the decision is to avoid confusion for passengers which would result from a failure to lift the restrictions simultaneously across all states.

"In recent days a growing number of member states decided to maintain the ban," says the European Commission.

The removal of restrictions will be deferred "for a limited period", it adds.

Kallas says: "My main objective is to make life easier for air travellers. However, it is clear that a situation at European airports which leads to confusion for air passengers as to whether they can travel or not with duty-free liquids - in particular for connecting flights to the USA - should be avoided."

The Commission will consult with US representatives and review the situation, he says. In the meantime the ban will stay until passengers "can travel with certainty".

Lifting of the ban on duty-free liquids is part of a longer-term plan to remove all restrictions on liquid transport in hand luggage by 2013, by implementing suitable screening capabilities. The ban has been in place since 2006, the result of concerns over the risks from liquid explosives.

Passengers transferring from third countries, through European airports, normally have to discard duty-free liquids at security checkpoints, although there are separate arrangements for passengers from Canada and the USA, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and certain Croatian airports.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news