Manchester Airport mayhem down to ‘failure of management’, councillor says – amid warning chaotic queues could continue until SUMMER

The unfolding mayhem at Manchester Airport is down to a ‘failure of management’ and could continue for WEEKS – even into the summer – a Manchester councilor has said. The criticisms come after the MEN reported huge security queues and hours of flight delays, passengers abandoning their suitcases after waiting long enough and baggage handlers who are ‘under more stress than ever’.

Councillor Pat Karney met with airport bosses yesterday, slamming the scenes of ‘chaos’ and saying that the airport’s reputation is ‘nosediving’ as hundreds of passengers crowd check-in, security and baggage claim halls alike. Huge delays have been plaguing the hub, which is partially owned by Manchester City Council, throughout March.

On April 1, a shocking video emerged showing passengers jostling for space as they go through security checks has prompted concerns that ‘someone will get hurt’. Fellow travelers then came forward to tell the Manchester Evening News of the ‘carnage’ ongoing at the airport.

READMORE:MAYHEM at Manchester Airport as boxes piled high at security and worried holidaymakers ‘jump over barriers’ as passengers fear ‘someone will get hurt’

Following his meeting with airport chiefs, Coun Karney told the BBC that they ‘plan to make changes’ – but also informed him of several issues he had not been aware of. He had called for the meeting between the management and the shareholders of the airport, which include the nine other Greater Manchester councils and an investment company.

The meeting heard about the problems with recruitment – and delays caused by bags being rejected by security because they contained items like hand sanitisers, said the councilor. However, Coun Karney said the management had ‘totally underestimated the recovery time of the airport’ in the wake of the pandemic, according to the BBC report.

A video appeared to show disarray as passengers picked up their items following security checks

“Two million people went through the airport in February [and] in the previous year, it was 70,000, so you had to plan ahead,” he said.

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“They should have seen all this. They should have known the recovery was going to be very quick.”

To have any hope of resolving the problems and restoring faith in the airport, management will need to ‘spend money to get out of this, in terms of attractive wages and conditions’, continued the councillor. The bosses will soon be publishing a ‘six-point plan’ spelling out the action ahead, but the councilor has called for ‘more communication’ with passengers.

“Level with the public and tell them the problems,” he said.

“We’ve had the apologies. We want action.”

Councilor Pat Karney

But the results of any changes could be weeks off yet, warns the councillor, who believes that the problems are unlikely to be solved ‘until the summer’.

Bosses last month warned passengers could face queues for ‘several weeks’ after admitting they are struggling with staff shortages. Manchester Airports Group (MAG) said they have also struggled with the easing of restrictions as well as a large number of bags being rejected at security.

“To be brutally honest, we’re going to have delays and queues over Easter,” he said.

Pictures and videos show bags piled up in the T3 baggage reclaim hall – left by passengers who decided they had waited long enough

Manchester Airport’s managing director Karen Smart said she recognized that passengers “are really looking forward to getting away, and long queues are clearly not what they want to see”.

She said as travel restrictions had been lifted, demand had arisen back and passenger numbers, which had “more than doubled in the last two months”, were set to “grow further in the run-up to the summer”.

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“The extensive security checks and training for new security officers mean we’ve not been able to keep pace with the rapid growth in demand – but we are interviewing hundreds of candidates every week and new colleagues are coming into the operation every day,” she said.

She said she wanted to be “clear with our customers” that getting back to full strength would “take time”, and over the next few weeks it may take “longer than it should” to get through the airport.

Passengers could “definitely help us by arriving in good time and ensuring they know exactly what they can and can’t take through security”, she added.

A slew of travelers have slammed the recent mayhem at Manchester Airport – following on from a number of weeks of already-high demand. Passenger Jane Gilham tweeted a video just after 8pm on April 1 appearing to show passengers jostling for their items after going through security.

In the video, security boxes of belongings are piled on top of each other, while passengers reach over one another to search through them, while queues for the security checks run long. Jane added in her tweet to Manchester Airport: “You are an absolute disgrace! It was dangerous today, people will get hurt if you do not improve things.”

Photos shared from a back-of-house area administered by third-party baggage handlers within Manchester Airport
Photos shared from a back-of-house area administered by third-party baggage handlers within Manchester Airport

Emma Broadhurst experienced a ’30-hour delay’ trying to get to Doha. Emma told the MEN she waited through a ‘gruelling one-hour-and-30-minute’ queue to check in, a ‘two-hour queue at security’, and a ‘five hour delay’ on the plane itself before the flight was canceled due to a ‘technical fault’.

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Another airport-goer, Carlos Fernandez-Campa, said it took his family ‘four hours to walk 300 meters’ through security, while ‘passengers were jumping over the barriers scared of missing their flights’. ‘The police had to step in several times’, according to the eyewitness.

One woman, Susan Firth, even claimed multiple passengers were ‘taken ill’ on her flight, due to dehydration amid a long wait on the tarmac and lacking refreshments.

Photos taken in a back-of-house area show baggage overflowing before making it out to passengers

Concerns around short staffing are shared by operational staff on the ground, who say they are just as worried as the passengers about the pressure on the airport. Some workers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they feel the workplace is ‘absolute carnage’.

“We just can’t handle the workload,” one employee said. “A lot of people were furloughed and made redundant.

“Now everything is picking up again, we can’t just get the staff back. It’s absolute carnage right now.”

Queues at Manchester Airport Terminal One

Employees said they fear that staffing levels are going to continue to get worse until enough new recruits can be drafted in. They say they are already dreading intake of passengers during the Easter and summer holidays.

They went on to speak of occasions where baggage carousels have been unmanned due to low staff levels, and also occasions where baggage has been placed on the wrong belt or damaged.

In some instances this month, staff have been asked to volunteer their spare time to help assist with demand. One email sent to employees asked staff working in non-operational roles to offer to be redeployed to the check-in area to help manage queues and passenger queries. Emails asking security staff to ‘revert, defer or sell back holidays’ in order to remain staff levels have also been sent.

Long-standing employees are handing in their notices, new recruits are leaving after not even completing a day, and trying to get people to join the workforce is a struggle, allege the exhausted staff.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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