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Ban against carrying liquor aboard planes draws ire of passengers
( 2003-10-07 15:13) (Xinhua)

The recent decision by the Chinese civil aviation authorities to ban passengers from carrying liquor aboard domestic and international flights has drawn criticism for not being in line with international common practice.

"Why is this (carrying liquor aboard) allowed in all other countries but prohibited only in China?" asked a Chinese passenger who was prevented from carrying liquor aboard a flight at Beijing Capital International Airport.

Sources with the airport's security check division said that some passengers, when told to leave behind the liquor or wine they were carrying, were so infuriated that they either tossed the bottles into the dustbin or broke them on the floor on the spot.

The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (GACAC) issued the new regulations in February this year banning air passengers from carrying any liquor in any package, either bottled or in cans, aboard the flights.

However, the regulations said that the passengers could still pack no more than two bottles, or one kilogram, of liquor in their consigned luggage.

"It is out of security concerns that China has prohibited passengers from carrying liquor aboard," explained Wang Jiadong, general manager of the Capital Airport Co., Ltd.

Last year, a China Northern Airlines MD-82 jet airliner crashed into the sea off Dalian in northeast China, killing all 112 passengers and crew on board. Investigation found that the crash was caused by a fire set by a desperate passenger who carried gasoline concealed in soft drink cans onto the plane.

"It is really difficult to distinguish liquor from gasoline just by its appearance. Currently most airline companies in the world simply examine by sight the liquid carried by a passenger, and this is quite incredulous," Wang claimed.

However, an official with the GACAC who asked not to be identified conceded that the administration's liquor ban has also encountered some difficulties in practice.

"Apart from bringing inconvenience to the passengers, it also increases the time needed for the security check," said the official. "Sometimes a quarrel between a passenger and the security staff delayed other passengers' boarding time."

Some passengers felt even more indignant when they learnt that those who purchased liquor in the airport's duty-free shop were allowed to carry two bottles of it onto the plane.

"This was because the market was established in the airport's security zone where all entrants have passed security checks," said Wang. "Moreover, the airport can guarantee the safety of all goods sold from our market shelves."

Though the GACAC regulations said that the passengers who left their liquor behind at the airport could reclaim it upon their return within a certain period, only a few had chosen to do so.

In early July, the Beijing airport authority had to order the destruction of more than 36,000 unclaimed bottles of liquor and wine, including some top brands like Remy Martin, to make room for new lots.

"It's really a pity to see so much nice liquor and wine poured into the sewage and get wasted," said Wang Weiyu, manager for the airport's quality and security division.

Despite the criticism, Wang Jiadong, the general manager, said that the liquor ban would continue to be strictly enforced and they would make efforts to shorten the time for security check.

"The passengers' safety is always our top consideration, and we hope they will show more understanding and cooperation," he said.

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