Why do you have to take your shoes off at airport security? Explained


The big summer vacation has begun and you may face security measures while flying.

Going through airport security can be one of the most stressful parts of your trip.


From making sure you have your liquids in the right packaging to the long queues that have been seen at airports in recent weeks, this can be a source of concern.

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But one element you might not expect is having to take off your shoes and put them back on afterwards, adding extra time to the process.


On Friday (July 22) passengers were reportedly having to remove their shows at London Heathrow Airport while going through security.

If you’ve ever had to take your shoes off at airport security and wondered why, here’s why.


Why do you have to take off your shoes at the airport?

The main reason for this security measure is the result of an attempted terrorist attack by Richard Reid in December 2001.


Shortly after 9/11, he attempted to detonate a shoe bomb on a flight from Paris to Miami.

A passenger removes his shoes while other passengers place their carry-on baggage in racks for X-ray screening before proceeding through a security checkpoint at Dulles International Airport. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As a result of this bombing, the TSA instituted shoe searches to simulate a future incident.


Although the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) is American, it is a measure that has been copied at airports in other parts of the world – including the UK.

In 2006, removing shoes before going through scanners became mandatory for all passengers – this was relaxed in 2011 to allow children 12 and younger and adults 75 and older to keep their shoes on


Also in the UK, if you set off the metal detector arc when going through security, you must remove your shoes and other items such as belts (if you haven’t already) and repeat the process.

What other security measures are in place at UK airports?


There are restrictions on the amount of liquids you can take with you in your carry-on baggage. If possible, pack liquids in your checked baggage (baggage that you check in).

  • all drinks including water
  • liquid or semi-liquid foods, for example soup, jam, honey and syrup
  • cosmetics including creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lip gloss
  • sprays including shaving foam, hairspray and deodorant sprays
  • pastes, including toothpaste
  • gels, including hair and shower gel
  • contact lens solution
  • all other solutions and items of similar consistency

If you are taking liquids in your hand luggage:

  • Containers must not hold more than 100 ml
  • Containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag that holds no more than one liter and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm
  • The contents must fit comfortably in the bag so that it can be closed
  • The bag must not be knotted or tied at the top
  • You are limited to 1 plastic bag per person
  • You must present the bag at airport security

Food and powder in your carry-on baggage can interfere with images on X-ray machines. Your baggage may need to be manually screened again by security. You can stow these items in your checked baggage to minimize delays.

You can only take 1 lighter on board. You should put it in a resealable plastic bag (like those used for liquids) that you must carry with you throughout the flight. You can not:

  • Put it in your checked baggage
  • After the check, put it in your hand luggage