Airport bosses today insisted they have “turned the corner” after weeks of chaos and queues at the terminal’s new £25 million security hall.
In an exclusive behind-the-scenes look around the troubled facility, the Evening News was shown some of the changes that have been made in response to “unacceptable” delays, as well as the challenges faced by staff.
Two airport scanners have been brought back into use from the previous security hall to create an overflow space next to the new facility, as officials admitted the security had not run as efficiently as expected since the changeover.
However, security operations manager Nick Keenan insisted progress was being made and said the airport was still pursuing the “no queues” vision pledged by airport chief executive Gordon Dewar last year.
Dozens of newly trained staff have been deployed as of this week, with airport managers “over-egging” staffing levels to ensure delays cannot be blamed on a lack of labour.
Mr Keenan said: “The system is very simple, but what we’ve done over the last three months is really dig into it and found problems and procedural issues that we can mend. We’ve turned that corner, because we’ve now resourced correctly and are now manning to the peaks.”
Complaints from passengers forced to queue out of the security hall and dozens of meters into the check-in area have damaged the airport’s image over the past six months, with delayed travellers blasting the service as “shambolic”.
Passengers missed flights two weeks ago when an IT failure meant data from scanners could no longer be beamed to a remote screening room where the X-ray images of bags are examined.
Staff instead needed to examine the images on screens at each individual scanner, a process that meets the same safety standards but is more time consuming. Forces veteran Mr Keenan, who joined the airport in April, has overseen changes that airport officials say have reduced negative feedback by 35 per cent since two weeks ago.
Staff management and rotas have been overhauled following a trial to eliminate wasted labour and make working hours more efficient.
From September, each scanner will be staffed by a dedicated 16-person team with its own supervisor, reducing time lost through the previous practice of rotating staff between different scanners. A family queue for parents with children, as well as passengers with reduced mobility, has been given its own dedicated scanner, separating it from the queue for staff and air crew, and 32 additional full-time equivalent posts have been filled in security since April, 13 more than were originally planned for.
Mr Keenan said: “We basically over-egg the pudding in order to get maximum lanes open. That’s good from a passenger perception perspective, but it also allows us to process much more. Last weekend, everything went smoothly – there was no animosity, passengers were laughing with staff. That hadn’t been happening before.”
John Hewitt Jones, 22, heading to Albania on holiday yesterday morning after graduation, said he was surprised not be confronted with queues. “I had heard that there were problems with security, but it all seems to be running smoothly,” he said.