Who ran the airport? | The Independent


An example of the term “thankless task” is I give you “virtually any job at any airport.” For a more accurate definition, try “Airport Chief.”
Karen Smart – CEO of Manchester Airport – walked away. Her resignation came after weeks of travel chaos in what is usually Britain’s third busiest airport (after Heathrow and Gatwick).
About a month ago, as Covid’s restrictions eased and propensity to travel increased, passengers using Manchester began reporting long lines of security – in stark contrast to my last trip from there, March 6, 2020, when I was almost the only passenger.
Two years later, the search process sometimes became so slow that people either missed the planes or found them with a delay, as pilots and crew (as well as passengers who arrived there six hours before departure) were waiting for the missing cargo.
Wrong passengers, some airport insiders complain: people who haven’t flown in two years seem to have forgotten about the annoying rules of 100ml liquids and come up with big bottles of shampoo and sunscreen. Others neglect to read the rules of arrival at the destination until they reach the airport, which adds to the delayed skirmish during check-in.

Social media, as always, craves guilt – and Ms. Smart has become an unhappy fall girl. But the chaos in aviation over the past two years, with one inconsistent set of travel restrictions after another, has made travel either illegal or incredibly difficult.
The women and men who contributed to Britain’s rise to the world’s most successful aviation industry have been laid off or found a more enjoyable job that doesn’t require anti-social tough time in high-stress environments.
British Airways and easyJet are witnessing staff reductions and aviation disqualifications, each canceling about 70 flights daily. But airlines are in a much stronger position than airports.
Carriers can move assets to maximize their profit potential. Airports have a nasty habit of staying still and are at the double mercy of airlines and ever-changing travelers.

Airlines like to announce new routes. But they are ruthless about leaving airports when the best opportunity arises – or at least a way to lose money more slowly. Just ask the authorities of the beautiful Prestwick in the southwest of Scotland, which was an inexpensive holiday for the country for some time, but now has only a few daily flights if Ryanair is in the right mood.
Or Southend, which by 2020 was on track to become the second Essex success story (after Stansted), providing a simple, friendly alternative to other London airports.
When aviation crashes, airlines retreat to their hubs. Manchester was better than most, but in March 2021 lost 95 percent of its passengers. (At least he worked better than his sister in the Manchester Airports Group, the East Midlands, which showed that all its users in that horrible month could fit in a double-decker bus.)
Switching from 100% to 5% of customers and returning to 80-90% in two years would be a challenge for any head of any industry. I wish Karen Smart success in her next post and hope this assignment will bring her well-deserved gratitude.

Boris Johnson may look short of friends – but the beleaguered prime minister can count on the support of the transport secretary.
Grant Shapps did the Tuesday media round (if you’ve lost your place in Partygate, his brief was to defend the PM’s birthday celebration in the cabinet room and field questions about Mr. Johnson’s “wallpaper consultant,” Lulu Lytle).
But the transport secretary also found time to announce in a government press release: “We made the right calls at the correct time, and thanks to our vaccine and advocate rollout, it’s paying off – allowing us to remove nearly all Covid-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers safely.
“We already have one of the numerous open economies in Europe with the least restrictions, and because of these changes, we now have a travel sector to match it.”
This may surprise the UK aviation industry, which has suffered far more than any other major European nation.

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Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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