Goods worth £1.8 Billion abandoned at security every day

  • £645 million worth of goods have been confiscated or disposed of at UK airports over the past 12 months
  • Bottles of water are the most confiscated item by airport security
  • On average, 81,000 items are confiscated every day by UK airport security officials
  • A quarter (25 per cent) of passengers who had things confiscated did not remember the offending item was in their luggage

Nearly eleven years after passengers were banned from taking bottles of liquid over 100ml on flights, new research1 from Direct Line Travel Insurance reveals Brits are still having items confiscated by airport security. Over the last 12 months, approximately 10 million people (20 per cent) have had items confiscated by airport security, with the value of these goods totalling £306 million2. When combined with the items passengers voluntarily bin at the security gates this total raises to £645 million. On average, more than 81,0003 items are confiscated every single day at airports, affecting around 1,183 passengers per hour in the UK alone.

With 11.8 million Brits (23 per cent) leaving work early to head off on holiday, or for a long weekend in the past year4, it is unsurprising that over a quarter (27 per cent) of flyers have forgotten to take restricted items out of their hand luggage before leaving for the airport. One in four (25 per cent) had items confiscated because they were unaware they had the item in their luggage, something likely to raise eyebrows amongst security staff who ask ‘did you pack your bag yourself?’. Even more worrying, one in eleven (nine per cent) admit they had ‘chanced their luck’ thinking they could sneak restricted items through airport security without them noticing. 

Passengers who have disposed of or had items confiscated at security, could also be hit with marked-up prices by shops located airside, who often charge a premium for essentials compared to high-street prices. An example of this is a Lynx deodorant spray can, which was found to be 42 per cent more expensive at an airside retailer in Heathrow5 when compared with the price on the high street.

Tom Bishop, head of travel insurance at Direct Line, commented: “It is astonishing to see the sheer scale of personal items confiscated by airport security every day and the amount of money Brits are throwing away, not forgetting the time it takes airport security services to search for restricted items.

“With airport security increasing across Europe to ensure the safety of passengers, it is important that flyers are aware of what is in their luggage and remove any restricted items prior to arriving at the airport. This will not only ensure they don’t fall foul of airport security guidelines, but also save time and prevent them from losing their personal items.”

Table one: Most confiscated items at UK airport security in the past 12 months


Percentage accountable for in the past 12 months


50 per cent


16 per cent

Skin care products

16 per cent


16 per cent


15 per cent

Soft drinks

14 per cent

Sun cream

14 per cent


9 per cent


7 per cent

Knife or penknife

5 per cent

 Source: Direct Line Travel Insurance 2017

Despite the 100ml restriction for liquids taken onto aircraft being implemented in August 2006, one in eight adults who had an item confiscated (13 per cent) say they did not realise there was a limit. A further 22 per cent of Brits who had items removed from their luggage were unaware there were any restrictions at all. It also appears the signs around the airport go unnoticed, as half of flyers (50 per cent) who had items removed, have had bottles of water confiscated by airport security.

Bishop continues: “With thousands of toiletries seized by airport security every day, holidaymakers should ensure they pack any liquids in their hold luggage, or carry only 100 ml bottles to avoid them being confiscated by security, and left facing inflated prices to replace them in airport shops.

“Restricted items confiscated by airport security are not covered by travel insurance, which is why we urge all passengers to read the guidelines provided by airports and airlines before they fly and check which items are prohibited. It is also advisable to check the destination airport security rules, as these differ from country to country and will ensure no personal items are confiscated when returning home.”


  • Items prohibited from hand luggage can often be checked into the hold, including; toiletries, sun cream, corkscrews, perfume and e-cigarettes6

  • Make sure items purchased at the airport or on holiday, including perfume and alcohol do not exceed 100ml limits when travelling back to the UK – or ensure these items are in hold luggage (11 per cent of Brits had items confiscated they’d bought in duty free on the way out and 10 per cent of Brits had items confiscated they’d bought on holiday)

  • Before flying from the UK, passengers can check the Civil Aviation Authority website to find out the baggage restrictions and items banned from passing security checks

  • Holidaymakers should also be aware of bringing items back to the UK and any potential limits or customs duties and import VAT which may apply  

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

  • 1Research conducted by Opinium amongst 2,003 UK adults between 4th and 7th July 2017.
  • 2£306 million calculated by multiplying the average value of items lost (£29.53) by the total number of people who had lost an item at security (10,363,738) = £306,027,482.
  • 381,000 figure calculated by multiplying the average number of items lost (2.86) by the proportion of UK adults who had lost an item in the past year (20.0%, or £306,027,482). This amounts to 29,690,374 per year, or 81,343 per day.
  • 4Research was conducted by Opinium amongst a representative sample of 2,004 UK adults between 7 and 10 February 2017. 23% (have left early or arrived late) of 51,767,000 = 11,805,149.
  • 5Items checked 19th May at WHSmith Heathrow.  Lynx price compared to retail price at a high streets Boots.
  • 6

For further information please contact:

Claire Jarrett 

Media Relations Executive

Direct Line Group

Tel: 01651 832 411

Email: [email protected]

Antonia Green

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

[email protected]

0207 282 2967

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting