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In a recent question, I found that the U.S. requires flights from Hong Kong that are bound for the U.S. to confiscate liquids in containers above 100 mL from carry-on luggage in a secondary screening at the gate. However, this did not occur on a recent (June 2014) flight I took to the U.S. from Incheon, South Korea. I've also read forum posts where this has not applied to others going to the U.S. from Seoul or parts of Europe, but also where it has applied to those flying to the U.S. from some other places, including Latin America.

So, under what conditions are U.S.-bound flights required to confiscate liquids from carry-on items at the gate (as opposed to only confiscating them at security checkpoints and allowing items purchased airside to be taken on the plane, as happens on U.S. domestic flights?)

Is this only from certain countries whose primary screening isn't approved by the U.S. DoT (or DHS, as the case may be) for some reason? If so, is there a definitive list of which countries require (or, conversely, don't require) this check at the gate?

Is there an element of randomness to whether liquids acquired airside may be allowed on any given U.S.-bound international flight or is the procedure generally the same from a given departure point? It appears that, at least in the specific case of Hong Kong, the gate check is always applied, but I'm wondering about the general case of U.S.-bound international flights.

In order to limit the scope of the question, I'm not referring to items purchased in duty-free shops and the special rules and circumstances that may be involved with those. I'm just concerned with filling up or buying a water bottle or buying a soda or some such thing airside and taking it on the plane.

  • This happaened to us today on a flight from Panama to FL... second security check at the gate confiscated empty water bottles. Curious as to why?? – LESLIE COLEMAN Nov 28 '18 at 16:38
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You are correct that the secondary screening for liquids only occurs at certain airports, including Hong Kong (which does the check for flights bound for the U.S. and Australia). I've seen it in Tokyo Narita but only sometimes and usually only a few people. The U.K. and Australia do strict liquid checks for all international flights. The U.S. does liquid checks for all flights (domestic and international).

Note that in HKG, for some gates the check is done as one boards the plane (after the boarding pass scan), while for other gates, the gate area is roped off, and the check is done as one enters the roped-off gate area. Likewise for SYD, which has a special gate area often used for US-bound flights where screening is done before entering the gate area.

Similar checks are done in MAD for flights to TLV.

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    That's interesting to know. At least in the case of Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific claims that it's actually a requirement of the U.S. government for U.S.-bound flights, so I was specifically curious which airports and/or countries the U.S. government required to perform this secondary screening at the gate. – reirab Sep 26 '14 at 18:46
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    Hi @reirab, I believe Cathay is correct: both the U.S. and Australian governments require the liquid screening at certain overseas airports. – jetset Sep 26 '14 at 20:29
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    Yeah, I don't doubt the correctness of Cathay's statement. I was just pointing out that my question was specifically about which airports were required by the U.S. government to perform the gate checks. Your answer is good, though, and I have upvoted it. That's interesting about the roped-off gate areas. I didn't see any of those when I was there, but I didn't walk through the whole terminal. In our cases, the check actually took place about halfway down the jetway after we had passed the gate. – reirab Sep 26 '14 at 20:41
  • In NRT the checks are only done on some people, usually agents watch people board and once in a while pick out someone to check, but not too often. – jetset Apr 24 '15 at 23:37
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Just flew back from Hong Kong direct to Chicago on United and there was NO liquids check at the gate - I'm not sure if this was a mistake or have the rules changed (Nov 5th 2018).

  • That's interesting. Cathay's website still says regarding U.S.-bound flights, "Passengers will undergo additional security checks at the boarding gate in Hong Kong before departure," but their site may be outdated. – reirab Nov 5 '18 at 22:15

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