Sir Robert Atkins, MEP for the North West, and Deputy Leader of the British Conservative Delegation, today paid an early morning visit to Manchester Airport to inspect the security arrangements that have become necessary since the recent bomb threat. In the company of Geoff Muirhead, Chief Executive Office of the Manchester Airport Group (MAG), Andrew Cornish, Managing Director of Manchester Airport itself and Mike Fazackerly, Head of PR and Security,

Sir Robert was at Terminal 1 from 7.30 a.m. until 9.00 a.m. and saw for himself all aspects of security, from arrival through to departure. He questioned police officers, security staff and passengers on all aspects of their clearance.

The most important reaction was that of passengers“, commented Sir Robert, who sits on the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, “and that was broadly favourable. All travellers wanted flight safety at the top of the agenda and the effectiveness and relative efficiency of the security operation reassured them. Manchester has done very well so far but the long-term implications impose more of a difficulty“.

Sir Robert learnt from MAG’s executives of a number of problems that need to be addressed:-

  1. Lack of consistency between various EU airports, both in technology and passenger treatment.
  2. Quantity restriction on fluid medication, ie. Insulin for diabetics.
  3. Shoe removal is largely unnecessary and causes substantial delays.
  4. The increased queues and delays are causing congestion, forcing a review of space utilisation.
  5. The ban on any purchases made before passing through security will prejudice the future of the Departure Hall shops. This will affect the airport’s revenue as well as that of the retailers.
  6. Increased security equals substantial extra costs. In the longer term, who will pay?

There were a number of other technical and security issues which I discussed and will be pursuing with the Civil Aviation Authority, the EU Transport Commissioner and the Department of Transport“, concluded Sir Robert, a former Transport Minister, “but one simple conclusion can be drawn. Future air travel, airport management and the attendant security implications are in need of a radical review. Safety must be paramount. That requires new technology, more efficient procedures, highly-trained staff and more money. Politicians of all parties must deliver and I intend to play my part.

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