Manchester Airport: Eamonn Holmes on problems with travel
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Ray Ellis, 54, resigned in protest over what he called “chaotic operations” – and said he fears for the security of passengers. The grandfather said the travel hub should simply reduce flights until it employs more staff and the lengthy queues in security and baggage reclaim ease.
The airport has been plagued by staff shortages recently, and passengers have complained about massive delays in both departures and arrivals.
Queues for one departure terminal snaked as far as a car park on one occasion last month.
Speaking today to Manchester Evening News, dad of three Mr Ellis said: “I am health and safety through and through.
“I am very well trained and used to be a health and safety rep at the airport as well as a trainer.
“I have worn many caps there and I know how things should be run. They are not being run in the way they should be. I am making this point and speaking out because I am genuinely concerned for passenger safety.”
Mr Ellis, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, started work airside at the airport in 1994, handling baggage and aircraft.
In March, he started work for Manchester Airports Group, landside as a trolley operative. The granddad also runs a commercial clearance company and says he’s trained and experienced in health and safety, once working for the Health and Safety Executive in an advisory role.
But he’s contacted Manchester City Council, which has shares in the airport, to voice fears about passenger safety.
“I am quite willing and able to give a tour of the airport to point out my concerns to anyone who would benefit from that,” Mr Ellis added.
“It is the first job at the airport that I have walked out on. It is dreadful at the moment and getting dangerous.”
It is the first job at the airport that I have walked out on. It is dreadful at the moment and getting dangerous
Among a series of allegations, Mr Ellis cited workers being offered a “£20 incentive” to forgo breaks during one shift amid claims passengers were forced to wait up to two hours to collect their luggage – he said the move was in breach of working time directives and compromised safety.
He continued: “On Friday and Saturday there was a contingency plan in place to form the Terminal 1 departure queues outside the far and central entry doors when temperatures were predicted to be as low as freezing. My heart goes out to you if you ended up in it. To say the lunatics are running the asylum is an understatement.
“I resigned because of the chaotic way the airport is operating. I want to shout as loud as possible about it because I am a passenger as well. Security is not being taken seriously.
“They should have reduced flights to deal with the capacity. The inconvenience that passengers are suffering is unjust. I would say that passenger safety is being endangered. The security is nowhere near what it should be at a major airport.
“People are sat around in management crisis meetings. No one seems to be taking ownership or responsibility for this. They need to reduce flights until they get on top of it all.
“In Terminal 2 there can be the best part of 20,000 passengers all trying to get through security in two hours. We know the size of the terminal and we have logged some queues at more than a mile and a half long. The queues are that long they can compromise evacuations.”
Mr Ellis claimed overcrowding and poorly laid out customer lines and queue barriers were compromising safety and evacuation plans.
The Manchester Evening News contacted the airport on Friday and put Mr Ellis’ claims to them.
In a statement on Monday, the airport 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.”
The airport, a hub for Jet2.com and Ryanair, disputed a suggestion queueing arrangements create a hazard – saying barriers were movable so could be adjusted to requirements and do not compromise evacuation safety.
Bosses said the airport wasn’t in breach of the Working Time Directive, which stipulates 20-minute breaks every six hours. Airport Security Officers, they said were offered 40-minute breaks every four hours and staff could voluntarily forego part of it for a £20 bonus, but it’s not obligatory and would not take them over the Working Time Directive threshold.
All operational areas undertake risk assessments for their activities to identify significant hazards and to ensure appropriate mitigations are in place to reduce the risk, the airport added.
“We have launched one of our largest-ever recruitment drives in response to these challenges and have, for example, arranged a number of jobs fairs across the region, which we have collaborated on with airlines and operational partners who are experiencing the same difficulties.”
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