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What to expect at airport security

No matter which airport you fly from, you will need to go through airport security. While frequent flyers may be used to this essential screening process, for first-time airport users the process can be a little daunting.

To give future visitors to LJLA an idea of what to expect at airport security, we have created this handy guide. We explain exactly what you will find at the security checkpoint. We also look at what security processes you will go through before being allowed to progress to the departure lounge. Finally, this guide will give you an idea of how long airport security takes to pass through and if this should influence your airport arrival time.

Airport security processes explained

Experienced flyer or not, understanding airport security will improve your experience. Below we have broken down the airport security process into four essential components. This will give you a good idea of what to expect and how to best prepare for this stage of your journey.

Passport and boarding pass check

As you approach airport security, the first checkpoint you will reach is the passport and boarding pass check. To progress through this part of security, you must produce a valid passport and boarding pass. Try to ensure you have these documents in hand as you reach the passport control queue. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to keep these documents in an easy-accessible area of your carry-on bag or a pocket. 

Hand luggage scanners

As you progress past the document checkpoint, you will notice large scanning machines. To progress through security, all personal items and hand luggage will need to be passed through one of these x-ray machines. Here they are checked for dangerous or restricted items.

Once a security attendant has instructed you which scanner to go to, you will be required to put all items of hand luggage on the scanner’s conveyor belt. You will also need to place any personal items, such as keys, wallets, phones and loose change, onto a tray. These items will need to pass through the scanner separately and cannot be left in your pockets as you walk through the body scanner. Any metal items, such as watches, belts and items of jewellery, will also need to be removed and placed on a tray to be scanned separately.

Once you have walked through the body scanner, you will be able to collect your personal items and hand luggage at the other end of the luggage scanner. 

Luggage restrictions

Each airline has their own policy when it comes to the size and number of hand luggage items. It is important to check this information on the airline’s website before travelling. However, when it comes to restricted items, rules are enforced by airports, directed by UK Department for Transport regulations.

Other than bans on items such as weapons, explosives and illegal drugs, most hand luggage restrictions relate to liquids, foods, medicines and powders. Generally, passengers are permitted to take small quantities of these items through security. However, they must be in separate containers. Each container must not exceed 100 ml and each must be placed in a transparent plastic bag measuring 20cm by 20cm. No bag can contain more than 10 items.

Click here to find out more about these rules at LJLA.

Body scanners

After your documents have been checked and your hand luggage scanned, you will be scanned. Traditionally, this part of airport security requires passengers to walk through an archway metal detector. However, as technology advances, more airports now use full-body scanners. Here at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, we use state-of-the-art non-invasive body scanning technology.

These smart walk-through scanners use electromagnetic waves to detect contraband such as weapons, explosives and drugs hidden under clothing. While the thought of electromagnetic waves passing through your body can be a little unnerving, these scanners are perfectly safe. They are also far less invasive and more accurate than human-led pat downs or frisk searches.

How long does it take to get through airport security?

It should take between 15 and 20 minutes to get through airport security. However, it can take longer during busy periods of the year. At LJLA, we recommend passengers arrive between two and three hours before departure.


For peace of mind, we offer fast-track car parking options, as well as fast-track security passes. These affordable add-ons can drastically reduce your transport and queuing time. This also means you can spend more time relaxing in the departure lounge before boarding.