Gordon Dewar: Edinburgh Airport didn’t overreact

Passengers were looked after during the airport drama. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Passengers were looked after during the airport drama. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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It’s funny the questions you are asked after a day of drama such as we had at the airport on Tuesday. The main one has been: “Did you overreact?”. The thinking is that because the suspect package was found not to be a threat that we perhaps didn’t need to close the airport.

It’s an easy question to answer. No, we didn’t. Trust me, the outcome was a good one. For someone that has dealt with a terrorist attack, it is not something we want at our airport.

But passengers should feel secure. The incident proved that our security team and processes are up to the challenge of identifying risks and dealing with them.

To reiterate the facts, just before 2pm on Tuesday afternoon our security team was alerted to a potentially suspicious package going through an X-ray machine. Given the nature of the package the decision was taken to partially evacuate the security area and terminal while further investigation took place.

Police Scotland was on site from the outset and swiftly took the decision to bring in bomb disposal experts to carry out further investigations. As the situation became more serious, the decision was made to activate our crisis procedures and close the airport to all passengers and flights.

In these moments, once we are sure that all passengers and staff are safe and secure, our role is to make sure that passengers are looked after. No-one had a great experience on Tuesday but we worked very hard to make sure that it was the best it could be.

Tipping 2500 passengers out into a dreich and cold January afternoon gave us a logistical nightmare.

However, help was just a phone call away. We asked our neighbours, the Hilton Airport hotel and the Royal Highland Showground, for help and their immediate response was a resounding “Yes”.

This, for me, is one of our great city’s strengths and one of which we should rightly be proud. Lothian Buses also gave fantastic support.

Most of the affected passengers were therefore warm, dry and fed and watered thanks to “Team Edinburgh Airport”.

We’re very grateful and I visited our neighbours yesterday to say thank you personally and ensure that all those who helped are recognised.

Clearly, we can do some things better and the wash-up process has begun in earnest. We can improve and we will.

That said, I’m proud of my team. In the most trying of circumstances we looked after our passengers and we got the airport operational again very quickly. Flights left mere hours after the airport was handed back to us and everything was returned to normal by the following morning.

Airlines, handling agents, airport staff and others worked long into the night after the incident was stood down to make this happen.

I will never apologise for putting our passengers’ and my team’s safety first. Sadly, those who wish to cause us harm do not come to the airport with black metal spheres with “BOMB” written on the side. They will try very hard to disguise their intentions. So no, we didn’t overreact and we’ll continue our vigilance and focus on safety.

Gordon Dewar is chief executive of Edinburgh Airport