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Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has issued a statement on ongoing disruption at Manchester Airport, following a meeting with its leadership on 6th April.
The airport has been plagued with long delays for passengers as the airport has struggled to recruit baggage handlers and security staff to meet rising demand. Air travel was severely reduced by the Covid-19 pandemic, and Manchester Airport was forced to cut staff numbers due to the lowered demand and a lack of sector-specific support for the aviation sector from government; however, recruitment efforts have proved insufficient to recover staff numbers now that passenger numbers are rising once more. Absences due to Covid-19 have also exacerbated staff shortages.
Andy Burnham’s meeting with the airport follows the resignation of its MD, Karen Smart, announced on Tuesday 5th April, who cited family reasons for her departure after two years leading the UK’s third largest airport through the pandemic. Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which operates Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted airports, is majority-owned by Greater Manchester’s 10 borough councils, although it is independently run. The 10 councils invested £250 million into the Northern hub in 2020 to help the airport navigate the pandemic, and Australian investment group, IFM, who own a 35.5% stake in MAG, recently announced a £3 billion investment package in UK assets over the next five years of which the airport will benefit.
In a statement made following his meeting, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, criticised Manchester Airport’s recruitment strategy, arguing that while ‘strenuous efforts’ were made, it should have acted sooner to restore staffing levels. Communication with passengers to mitigate the impact of delays and manage queues in the airport also came under fire; however, Andy Burnham conceded that steps taken at the airport to ensure people’s trips can go ahead and avoid cancellations had contributed to pressures.
Andy Burnham also set out that disruption was set to continue for around the next two months, but steps were being taken to ease pressure, including increasing overtime and use of temporary workers at Manchester Airport. Better communication and information available to passengers would also be provided, both to manage queues at the airport, and online before travel. Greater Manchester Police, TfGM and fire service personnel are expected to be deployed at the airport to support travellers.
With over 200 new hires at the airport awaiting start-dates and security vetting, the Mayor also confirmed he would write to the Minister for Security and Borders to see major airports prioritised.
As disruption continues, the Greater Manchester Mayor shared the following advice for those travelling from Manchester Airport:
- Arrive at the airport 3 hours before your flight.
- Check your baggage into the hold in advance if possible.
- If you have to carry hand luggage please try to minimise it and ensure it is correctly packed before you leave home.
Andy Burnham’s full statement on Manchester Airport disruption is published in full on the GMCA website.