MANCHESTER Airport has issues an apology to customers after weeks of passenger delays and lengthy queues, which have led to some missing their flights. 

The chief executive of the Manchester Airport Group, Charlie Cornish, has written an open apology letter to customers, blaming staffing issues and the pandemic for the travel delays.

He also warned the long waiting times are expected to last “months” as the industry recovers from the pandemic.

Mr Cornish said: “I want to say I understand passengers’ frustrations with the queues and congestion they’ve experienced in recent weeks, and I apologise to anyone who has been affected by the disruption.

We are committed to getting customers away on their trips, especially as we know many have waited such a long time to get back to travelling internationally.

“Having endured the worst crisis in our 84-year history, I can assure you there is no one more pleased to see passengers back in our terminals than we are.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Manchester Airport Group CEO, Charlie CornishManchester Airport Group CEO, Charlie Cornish

Mr Cornish said the aviation sector has been in “survival mode” and had to offer colleagues the optional offer of redundancy in order to cut costs “to survive”.

He said: “We said throughout the pandemic we were confident in the long-term health of our business and wider sector, and when restrictions were removed huge pent-up demand for travel would be released.

“We also consistently said we needed clarity on when travel restrictions would be removed, partly so we could work out the right time to begin recruiting again.

“No other sector has suffered as badly as the UK aviation industry – with other parts of the economy returning to pre-Covid levels way ahead of airport and airlines.”

Mr Cornish said the airport group has seen a “stunning recovery in international travel” in recent weeks and demand has returned dramatically to more than 70 per cent of pre-Covid levels in a matter of weeks, after travel rules were eventually relaxed last month.

Lancashire Telegraph: Zaralena Jackson shares photo of queues at Manchester Airport (Photo: Instagram/@zaralenajackson)Zaralena Jackson shares photo of queues at Manchester Airport (Photo: Instagram/@zaralenajackson)

However, the group has faces some challenges as a result, particularly in regards to staffing numbers, and he wants to be “clear” about what people can expect over the next few months.

He said: “The simple fact is we don’t currently have the number of staff we need to provide the level of service that our passengers deserve. 

“Despite our efforts since last Autumn, the tight labour market around the airport has meant we have just not been able to hire people quickly enough to establish a full-strength team.

He said there will be times over the next few months when wait times will rise to between 60 and 90 minutes.

He said: “Practically, staff shortages mean we cannot open all the security lanes we need and at times, this results in longer queues than we want to see.

“While we still expect most passengers to get through in less than 30-40 minutes, there will be times over the next few months when waiting times will rise to between 60 and 90 minutes.”

Mr Cornish added he “understands” people will feel anxious about missing their flights when they see queues of this length so is advising customers to arrive early for their flight.

He said: “For now, we are advising passengers to arrive at the airport three hours before their flight leaves, to allow enough time to check-in, get through security and reach the departure gate.

“If passengers follow that advice, and allow more time than normal, we are confident they will get away on their travels.

“These measures are temporary and we are focused on getting back to normal in time for the peak summer season."

Mr Cornish hopes these pressures will ease as new staff join; they are currently recruiting new officers and taking them through the rigorous training and testing needed to work in aviation security.

They have interviewed more than 4,000 people over the last two months, many of which have already started and more than 200 of which are currently going through security checks.

They expect around 250 new security staff to start in the operation by early May, and are working to provide more real-time information to customers.

Mr Cornish said: “While we are advising passengers to expect longer queues than usual as we continue our recruitment drive, I also want to be clear a huge amount of work is going into improving the situation in the short-term.

“Our focus for the next four weeks is on delivering a more predictable and reliable level of service for passengers.

“We recognise people want to know what to expect. We will be deploying more staff to help people when there are queues, and we are also working to provide more real-time information to our customers both online and in our terminals.”

He added other airports are capping customer capacity and cancelling flights – but this is something the airport is trying to avoid.

Mr Cornish said: “This would cause enormous disruption to holidays, business trips and long-awaited visits to see friends and family. 

“We do not think cancellations are what our customers want to see. While we know they don’t want long queues either, we are committed to operating all flights safely and know the steps we are taking will improve service levels week by week.

“As part of tackling these challenges, we have been working closely with our airlines at Manchester and we are agreed that, in the circumstances, this is the best course of action. 

“None of us want to disrupt the travel plans our customers have made, some of which have been disrupted several times already because of the pandemic.  

“I cannot apologise enough for the disruption people have faced. 

“We are proud of our role as the UK’s gateway in the North, and as a major source of employment and economic value for the region.

“We will be back to where we need to be soon, and are working as hard as we can to get there as quickly as possible.”