Disruption at Manchester Airport expected to continue for at least 'two months'

Disruption for passengers at Manchester Airport is expected to continue for at least 'the next two months' as the troubled company deals with a staffing shortage, Mayor Burnham has said.

Over the past month travellers have criticised long queues at security, unorganised check-ins and delays on baggage being returned in arrivals.

Manchester Airport Group (MAG) previously apologised and said the industry was "facing staff shortages and recruitment challenges".

The Greater Manchester Mayor said: "Sadly, the disruption is not going to disappear overnight and this advice will have to be in place for the foreseeable future.

"While the airport expects that there will be some disruption for the next two months, I want people to be reassured that the airport, supported by colleagues in Greater Manchester, are putting in measures to ease it."

He says the airport is making "huge efforts to recruit staff", but one of the issues they are facing is the length of time it is taking for security checks.

220 staff have been recruited to work at the airport and are currently awaiting clearance but the process is taking longer than usual.

Mayor Burnham said he has contacted the Minister for Security and Borders Damian Hinds to ask if large airports could be prioritised for a period to speed up the recruitment process.

Managing Director of Manchester Airport Karen Smart stepped down from the role earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Greater Manchester Police Chief Stephen Watson said officers are 'willing to step in to do whatever we can' to solve the chaos. However, he did rule out his officers 'doing baggage handling type tasks'.

He also clarified that he would not put so many officers into the terminals that people in other areas of Greater Manchester would suffer.

The Chief Constable told the Manchester Evening News : "We've already put extra police officers in, of course we did over the weekend.

"Of course, you wouldn't expect to see police officers doing baggage handling type tasks, and there is no, there's no prospect of that, because that's not what we've been asked to do.

"The issue is that there are a number of issues at the airport. We've got a lot of people who through no fault of their own are stood in very long queues and sometimes some frustration manifests itself. And so we have increased our presence such as to just make sure that people keep calm heads on the situation."

ITV Granada spoke to a several passengers on Wednesday who had arrived early at Manchester Airport to catch their flight.

On Tuesday, Karen Smart stepped down from her role as the managing director of the airport to "explore new career opportunities".

She resigned on the same day airport management met political leaders, including Andy Burnham, and unions to discuss the ongoing situation.

The airport's new interim boss Ian Costigan says the priority is the recruitment drive to replace staff lost during the pandemic.

However, workers unions say at the moment there is no quick fix, and have said the airport needs to consider increasing pay and introduce "attractive rostering".

Unite regional officer John O’Neill said: "Thousands of workers at the airport were furloughed or made redundant.

"However, as the economy recovered, many workers found other jobs which paid similar wages, without the unsocial hours which could see shifts at the airport starting at 3.00am.

"Basically, their work/life balance vastly improved."

The queues appeared to be less chaotic on Wednesday (6 April) but passengers are still being told to allow plenty of time to check-in, pass through security and board flights.

A Manchester Airport spokesman said: "We are currently facing staff shortages and recruitment challenges as we recover from the most difficult two years in our history, and we apologise to passengers affected by longer than usual queues in recent days.

"We are grateful to all our colleagues for their hard work and dedication, especially during this period of operational pressure.

"We want to be clear that the safety and security of passengers and colleagues is, and always has been our first priority and we carry our regular reviews of our health and safety policies and procedures.

"This ensures that all working environments and equipment used by team members remain safe and secure."

On Twitter, some travellers said their experience of the airport was organised and stress-free.

Trevor Morris said: "We may be one of the lucky few, but we got into the departure lounge in less than an hour from us being dropped off at 10am this morning.

"The staff were really lovely and should get a mention as they are clearly under a lot of pressure but were still smiling."

Meanwhile, other travellers said they felt "abandoned". Shaun on Twitter said: "Flew back last Friday and it was terrible.

"90 mins sat on the plane before we could get off and 90 mins waiting for the cases.

"The problem is a lack of customer service no announcements or water etc whilst waiting just felt abandoned."

A damaged bag at Manchester Airport. Credit: MEN Media

On Wednesday, Swissport, one of the baggage handling firms at the airport, apologised to passengers who have faced long delays waiting for their bags after getting off planes.

A spokesperson said: "We understand how frustrating and inconvenient delays are for customers and we apologise to those who've experienced delays in disembarking and baggage collection.

"With the increased demand for travel the capacity of the baggage system is being put under enormous pressure and we are seeing knock-on delays from security queues."