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Frequently Asked Questions—Passenger Screening

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How can I minimise delays and ensure a smooth transition through security screening?

To help avoid any delays you should pack your liquids, aerosols and gels before you arrive at the airport. Make sure that each container for items such as toiletries you wish to take on board is no greater than 100 millilitres, and that all containers are packed comfortably in a single, transparent, plastic, resealable bag. The sum of the four sides of the sealed area should not exceed 80 cm (e.g. 20x20 cm or 15x25 cm).

What will I be expected to do when I reach the screening point?

You will be required to present your liquids, aerosols and gels bag for visual inspection to ensure it complies with the measures. You will need to surrender any liquids, aerosols or gels in containers larger than 100 millilitres. You should remove all bulky overcoats for X-ray, and you may also be asked to submit to a frisk (pat down) search.

What happens with my duty free liquid, aerosol and gel items if I am a passenger on an international flight?

Security screening for certain duty free liquid, aerosol and gel items is in place at the international screening points of Australia's eight international gateway airports. The eight international gateway airports are Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney Airports. For more information visit the duty free liquid, aerosol and gel screening FAQ page.

Are restrictions on liquids, aerosols and gels in place for all flights in and around Australia?

The Australian liquids, aerosols and gels restrictions only apply to international flights to, from or through Australia. The restrictions do not apply to domestic flights within Australia.

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What will happen to liquid, aerosol and gel items that have been surrendered?

Each screening authority will make its own decision about surrendered goods, however, airport screening authorities and airlines are under no obligation to hold any surrendered items. It is better to check with your airline whether an item can be taken onboard before you get to the airport.

Why do I need to be frisk searched?

You may be subject to a frisk search when you progress through the security screening point of an international airport to determine whether you are carrying any liquids, aerosols or gels that have not been packed or declared. This will happen on a random basis.

What does a frisk search involve?

If you are selected for a frisk search a security screening officer will explain that you have been randomly selected and will ask your permission to conduct the search. If you refuse you will not be allowed to board your flight.

A frisk search is not designed to be intrusive, and will usually take no more than 30 seconds. The frisk search must be conducted by a security screening officer who is the same sex as you. The officer will run their hands over your outer garments to ensure there are no items hidden on your person. If the officer discovers a hidden item, you will be required to remove and possibly surrender the item. You may also be subject to a second frisk search.

If you are unsure about any part of the frisk search process, you should ask the security screening officer to explain it to you. You may request that the frisk search take place in a private room. In these circumstances you will be accompanied by two security screening officers, one to undertake the frisk search, and one to act as a witness.

If you deliberately try to conceal liquids, aerosols or gels you may be subject to a $2,200 fine, two years imprisonment, or both.

If you have a medical device on your person, you may wish to inform the security screening officer of this prior to the frisk search, although you are not required to do so.

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What does a random frisk search mean?

Security screening officers do not target or profile particular passengers. They are instructed to continuously undertake frisk searches, which means once they have finished one frisk search, they will select the very next person they see. If you are selected, it means you were that person. It's not just passengers who are selected; airport and airline staff and government officers may also be randomly selected.

Because security screening officers select people for a frisk search at random, you won't be selected every time you pass through a screening point. The process is similar to the random and continuous explosive trace detection process currently in place at screening points.

Travellers with specific cultural or religious requirements

Everyone, regardless of their religious or cultural background, has to be screened before they can board the plane. The Australian Government understands that some cultures incorporate elements of clothing into their religious observance. Before going through the screening point you may be asked to remove religious items for screening. You can request that the security screening takes place in a private room and that the screening is conducted by a person of the same sex.

Check with your airline before you travel regarding what items you cannot take on board. Some religious items could be considered prohibited items or weapons under Australian law. If you are carrying a prohibited item or weapon in your carry-on baggage or on your person, security screening officers may be able to make arrangements for you to pack this item in your checked baggage, however this may not always be possible. Where it is not possible, you will have to surrender the item to pass through the security screening point. It is best to pack such items in your checked baggage, if permitted.

A caution about getting angry or argumentative at the security screening point

A security screening officer's decision about what items to allow through a screening point is final. Arguing or getting angry with a security screening officer will most likely result in the situation getting worse, not better. If you become verbally or physically aggressive, you may be denied permission to fly.

In some circumstances you can be arrested and charged by the Australian Federal Police, which may result in significant fines, possible jail time, or both, if you are convicted of an offence. Airlines may also ban you from flying with them. The Australian Government takes aviation security seriously, and people causing an unlawful disturbance at a screening point can expect to be dealt with according to the law.

Security screening officers are not trying to make your travel experience difficult or unpleasant. Their job is to ensure Australian Government aviation security requirements are met, and that all members of the air travelling public are as secure as possible.

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Last Updated: 23 July, 2014