Yet more scenes of a night of chaos are emerging from Manchester Airport as passengers claim they have been faced with huge security queues and hours of flight delays. A shocking video showing passengers jostling for space as they go through security checks has prompted concerns that ‘someone will get hurt’.
The images and footage come as Manchester Airport baggage handlers have said they are ‘under more stress than ever’ due to ‘unexpected’ demand over the last few weeks. Passengers are now too coming forward, telling the Manchester Evening News that April 1 marked a day of carnage for the airport.
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.
READMORE:“It’s absolute carnage”: Manchester Airport baggage handlers ‘under more stress than ever’ as they battle queues and delays – and they say it’s only going to get worse
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.”
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’.
“We were moved like cattle to the baggage reclaim, where we faced another two-hour queue to go through passport control, despite never leaving the tarmac, and a further hour for our bags,” explained Emma.
“On arrival at the airport for our second attempt to fly, we were faced with yet another check in queue, which took over two hours. Finally through security once again, we faced yet another two-hour delay until the aircraft took off.”
Another airport-goer 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.
“As far as bad experiences go, this goes to the top,” said fellow passenger, Carlos Fernandez-Campa. “There was such complete chaos at the Security B [lane] of Terminal 1 that passengers were either dehydrated or almost urinating themselves in a never ending queue that almost turned into a mob due to Manchester Airport’s neglect.
“It took us four hours to walk 300 meters, squeezed in like cattle in the biggest Covid breeding ground in the UK. Passengers were jumping over the barriers scared of missing the flights and these were either canceled or severely delayed.
“Our flight was delayed by nearly three hours and we were the lucky ones. There was so much tension that police had to step in several times and I am surprised that no violence broke out or medical emergencies happened.
“The staff were barely visible, demotivated, inefficient and clearly not in charge. I do not blame fully on them as the staff numbers were too low to cope with more than 100 passengers.
“The international gateway to Manchester is a national embarrassment.”
Carlos’ family was not the only one struggling with both security and flight delays. Frustrated traveler Edward Cooper called the airport ‘a shambles’ an hour-and-a-half delay before taking off for Manchester, then another long wait after landing.
The ‘frustrations among fellow passengers was becoming unsettling’, I added.
“Arriving at Manchester Airport from Palma Majorca on the evening of April 1 after a one-and-half-hour delay, I am informed due to problems at Manchester earlier, the flight finally landed at 10.33pm. Myself and my wife then waited in baggage reclaimed along with approximately 50 other passengers, including several with extremely distressed children among a large collection of abandoned luggage from previous flights for a further two hours.
“The carousel stopped and the flight number was removed from the indicator screen, this would suggest that all luggage had been unloaded. No staff were available for advice and frustrations among my fellow passengers was becoming unsettling.”
One woman even claims multiple passengers were ‘taken ill’ on her flight, due to dehydration amid a long wait on the tarmac and lacking refreshments.
“We were then held on a staircase for in excess of an hour,” shared Susan Firth, another Manchester Airport customer caught up in the April 1 havoc.
“We sat on the plane for a short time before taking off two hours late. Once in flight, we were told no refreshments had been
loaded for an in excess of four-hour flight.
“This meant that no liquids were available for hydration and at least two of the passengers were taken ill as a result.”
“We apologize to passengers whose experience yesterday at Manchester Airport fell short of the standards they expected,” said a Manchester Airport spokesperson, in response to the issues raised by the MEN
“As we recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, our whole industry is facing staff shortages and recruitment challenges. As a result we are advising customers that security queues may be longer than usual, and we encourage them to arrive at the earliest time recommended by their airline.
“Due to the security checks and training associated with these roles, it takes time for people to be able to start work in our operation. That is why we are exploring a number of short-term measures to deliver the best possible service we can, such as the use of agency staff and different ways in which existing colleagues can support our operation.
“We are aware of similar challenges are being faced by airlines and third parties, such as baggage handling agents, operating on our site. Together, we are working hard to deliver the best possible service we can in the circumstances, and to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.”
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. Today, the Manchester Evening News reported that 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.