Airports promise speedier checks

UK AIRPORT authorities have ordered a security overhaul of Britain’s main airports in an attempt to prevent a repetition of the chaos that followed the warnings of a possible terrorist attack on August 10.

The measures include new security lanes and secure areas, which will accommodate longer queues, as well as the installation of more efficient scanning equipment and metal-detecting arches.

In addition, hundreds more staff will be added to the 4,000 already at Heathrow. A spokesman for the British Airports Authority (BAA), which runs seven airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, said: “We have a heavy recruitment programme at the moment. There will also be significant investment in new equipment, but until the internal security review is completed we can’t go into much more detail.”

The review was prompted by heavy criticism of BAA after August’s warnings. The changes in the rules relating to hand baggage and the insistence on more body searches led to long queues, which airlines, including British Airways and Ryanair, said were unacceptable.

This week, Ryanair said delays at Stansted were continuing because of a lack of staff and it urged passengers to complain directly to BAA. “The situation has deteriorated over the past two weeks, almost every day has caused chaos for passengers using the airport,” the airline said in a statement.

The move comes as the chief constable of Greater Manchester police, Michael Todd, said that passengers should pay an extra duty of 50 pence per ticket to cover heightened security. He explained that while the larger airports, including Heathrow and Manchester, have their own security staff, smaller regional airports rely on the police, who must fund security from their own budgets.

A spokesman for BA said the company would support any charges necessary to maintain security. However, a spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said it would resist any attempts to increase taxes. “Our view is that there should be no more taxes on holidaymakers as they seem to be taxed for all sorts of things,” he said.