Seeing another question about taking water bottles onto planes reminded me of an interesting incident I ran into once. During a layover in Hong Kong in late May of 2013, as we were boarding a flight to Los Angeles, there were security personnel actually in the jetway searching through everyone's carry-on luggage and confiscating water bottles that still had water in them. Since only empty bottles were allowed to get through security or transfer security to even get to the gate, this means that all of the water being confiscated was either purchased or obtained from a water fountain in the airside concourse. As such, I was confused as to why it was being confiscated. Also, this was not done on a different departure I had from Hong Kong only a couple of weeks before that or on any other flight I've ever been on anywhere.

So, my question is, does anyone know why they would confiscate water that was obtained in the secure departures area of the airport in the jetway as passengers were boarding a flight?

The only even remotely reasonable explanation I could think of is that it could have something to do with taking extra precaution to prevent the spread of avian flu, since there was an outbreak in China at the time, though I didn't hear any kind of announcement of this not being allowed until we were already actually in the jetway past the boarding gate.

Less likely, this was during the time that Edward Snowden was in Hong Kong, so perhaps this was a pretense to search luggage of U.S.-bound flights for some reason related to that, but this seems very unlikely, especially since this was between the time he arrived in Hong Kong and when he went public with the information.

  • Could people transferring from other flights (which do not check for water) have reached your boarding gate?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 0:13
  • 2
    @Andrew That's what transfer security (which we had already been through) is for.
    – reirab
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 0:15
  • Just flew HK to LA, Cathay Pacific, water was confiscated in the jetway, June 14, 2017
    – Lon Sippy
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 5:17

3 Answers 3


Update: Since 2017 we have not encountered the gate check, although in that time our only flights to the US have been from Shanghai/Pudong. (PVG)

The TSA is insane. They require gate checks for liquids on US-bound flights. I've encountered the same nonsense at the gate on every flight from Shanghai since they put the rule in place.

Of course, without an x-ray it's not very effective.

Here's a link from Cathay Pacific confirming this requirement to flights to the U.S. from Hong Kong.

  • 4
    It apparently doesn't apply to all U.S.-bound flights because it didn't happen on my recent ICN->SFO flight. Searching further, though, it does appear to apply to all U.S.-bound flights from HKG. Interesting. Source
    – reirab
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 19:54
  • This didn't happen on my recent ICN->DTW flight, either, though I have seen posts elsewhere before saying people have had it happen at ICN.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 14:50
  • 1
    @pnuts I have no info on when this practice started, but I, too, was surprised when this happened to me flying HKG->JFK in May 2009, so presumably it's been a while. Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 20:58
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    @Calchas I've flown multiple times from Europe (AMS, LHR, MAN) to the US on both US (American, Delta, United) and European (BA, KLM) airlines and never had any at-gate checks for liquids. Commented May 18, 2016 at 14:50
  • 1
    It was happening to us 100% of the time on PVG->US, but on our latest trip the station was there but they weren't looking at much of anything. Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 19:03

Flying Hong Kong to Brisbane 23 June 2016 - same scenario, same temporary set up in jetway, but on a QANTAS flight. Very upset travellers, many of whom insisted on uncapping their bottles and then handing them to the staff at the table. Unhappy as we have never had this happen anywhere in the world. We dispose of or drink before going through security. If the uncapped bottles are handed in, they can then be used to restock shops :-(

  • 2
    Although this has happened to me on a HKG > PER Qantas flight, it was apparently at the direction of Australian Authorities. The confiscated liquids and bottles are NOT used to "restock shops" as for some reason you believe, but are instead incinerated as per local and international regulations. Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 1:19
  • I think un-capping is a good idea, regardless of the regs. Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 4:37

Similar thing happened to me on numerous occasions flying from Johannesburg to Sydney in Australia on Qantas. All liquids were confiscated just prior to boarding. This has been going on for quite a number of years now - my earliest experience was in 2012. I definitely believe it is an additional requirement by the Australian Authorities.

  • 1
    Correct. Australia, like the US, has this requirement for flights TO their countries.
    – Doc
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 3:21

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