The European Union's top transport official said on Friday that restrictions on airline passengers carrying liquids in carry-on luggage will end when new screening technology is introduced.
EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said the rules won't expire as originally planned in April because machines to check bags for liquid explosives aren't yet widely available. Tajani said he hoped the rules would be scrapped by 2014 at the latest.
He added that officials would press technology companies to quickly roll out new security solutions, "If we don't twist their arms, they won't move."
Passengers at EU airports can only carry liquids on board planes if they are in containers no larger than 100 milliliters (3.4 oz) and packed in a small transparent bag.
The rules were drafted three years ago after British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up several airplanes by smuggling on-board ingredients for liquid explosives in soft drink cans. The limits prevent people carrying large wine or perfume bottles on board. The extra time needed for screening has also lengthened lines at security checks in many airports.
"We are very resolved to get rid of these very awkward and uncomfortable screening operations," Tajani told reporters after talks with transport ministers from the EU's 27 nations. "We will try to make travel a more comfortable business. At the moment it's uncomfortable."
He said he could not set a target date right now because it was unclear when new screening machines could be installed in European airports.
"We won't do it overnight because we don't yet have the equipment to replace manual screening," he said. Tajani said the EU may soon relax rules on duty-free liquids bought at airports outside the bloc that have equivalent security screening.