The Editor’s Corner #19 – Manchester Airport Has Resolved Its Chaotic Period – But Improvements Are Needed…

Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

LONDON – Having experienced this myself, it’s clear that Manchester Airport has resolved its chaotic period, but improvements are needed. Welcome to The Editor’s Corner.

The Editor’s Corner is an op-ed series from AviationSource Editor-in-Chief James Field, who is going to give his thoughts (Maybe controversial) on all things going on in the aviation industry.

In case you have missed the last 18, feel free to browse through them before you continue to read this piece:

  1. The Editor’s Corner #1: The Industry Isn’t Ready for Summer 2022 Demand
  2. The Editor’s Corner #2: JetBlue’s Offer for Spirit Airlines Will Change The American Airline Dynamic
  3. The Editor’s Corner #3: Boris Johnson’s Damage To The Aviation Sector is Another Reason for Resignation
  4. The Editor’s Corner #4: PLAY Will Transform The Market with a Post-Pandemic Edge
  5. The Editor’s Corner #5: Detriment of the Boeing 737 MAX & 787 Is Causing a 777X-Based Aftershock
  6. The Editor’s Corner #6: Qantas’ Plans For The Future Will Turn Around Negative Times
  7. The Editor’s Corner #7: The P2F Market Is Hotting Up…
  8. The Editor’s Corner #8: O’Leary Is Gunning For Another Cheap Boeing Order
  9. The Editor’s Corner #9: Ukraine Crisis: Turkish Airlines’ A350 Snap-Up from Aeroflot May Have Something To Do With A Red Carpet…
  10. The Editor’s Corner #10 – Ukraine Crisis: Lessors Will Not Win The Russia Battle
  11. The Editor’s Corner #11 – Spirit Airlines Are Slowly Changing Their Mind…
  12. The Editor’s Corner #12 – The Indian Air Cargo Market Is Hotting Up
  13. The Editor’s Corner #13 – Video Footage From RedAir Flight 203 Highlights Dangers of Carrying Luggage During an Evacuation
  14. The Editor’s Corner #14 – The Spirit-Frontier-JetBlue Battle for Merger Will Be Remembered As A Mess
  15. The Editor’s Corner #15 – Flyr, Norse & Norwegian Have Opportunity to Capitalise on SAS’ Woes
  16. The Editor’s Corner #16 – The Airbus & Boeing Battle Will Heat Up At Farnborough
  17. The Editor’s Corner #17 – My Predictions for Farnborough Were Well Off…
  18. The Editor’s Corner #18 – Why Do Airports & Airlines Fight Over Chaos When Government is to Blame?

Manchester Airport Has Resolved Its Chaotic Period – But Improvements Are Needed…

Having gone on holiday during the busy month of August in the Summer 2022 period (Hence no Editor’s Corner for the last two weeks), it’s clear that Manchester Airport has resolved its chaotic period.

I know this due to my recent personal experience. Bag drop to going through security took us 30 minutes, which is well in alignment with Manchester Airport’s recent announcement on improving security times.

This being during a busy time full of early morning departures, it shows that the airport is beginning to improve things. And that is vital as we continue onwards in this busy Summer.

Promising Signs of Improvement

Going into airside, it is clear that there are promising signs of improvement. As we entered security, the airport was able to open up new rows of security booths with flawless effortlessness, which was promising to see.

I must admit, I was sucked into the media’s rhetoric on such chaos still ongoing a couple of months into the Summer 2022 season. But seeing what I saw has definitely enveloped a level of confidence that the airport needs from the passenger experience perspective.

The airport has recruited 600 new staff to help with the chaos. At the time of writing, 300 are already on the frontline, with the other 300 expected to start in the next couple of weeks. 

Manchester Airport was also happy to boast that 95 percent of its passengers were processed within 30 minutes. And having seen that firsthand, it’s definitely a truth being spoken out.

What about Passport Control & Bag Drop?

When I returned from Kos on the 17th, I was very skeptical at first. When we arrived at the stand, it took Swissport around 15-20 minutes to give our flight some airstairs so then we could disembark.

Such a timeframe isn’t too bad considering how much worse it has been in recent months. I was mostly worried about passport control and bag drop.

But these worries ended up becoming quite unfounded in the end. Thanks to loads of e-gates being open, as well as the airport’s cleverness behind separating families and normal couples into two different lines, this did go a lot quicker.

From disembarkation through to passport control took about 10-15 minutes, if anything.

As for bag drop, there was a slight delay, which did hype up fears amongst passengers due to the huge array of uncollected luggage strewn across bag drop from previous flights.

My suspicion is that those uncollected pieces of luggage were from previous flights from days ago that passengers hadn’t collected.

After around 20 minutes of standing around, my luggage arrived, and I was able to go on my merry way.

Is There Still More To Do On The Airport’s Side?

From the airside perspective, it seems that the airport is already where it needs to be, so not many improvements are needed. The one thing I will say is that passengers need to be more aware of the signage that is clearly posted about what they need to take out of their hand luggage when going through security.

Rather than it is a lack of education, it’s more on the perspective of ineptitude in not following the rules.

This, of course, was one of the many factors that would slow things down at security.

Of course, staff shortage was the main factor, but there are other aspects that can slow the process down.

Upon arrival at Manchester Airport, I will say that the bag drop area needs to be completed, in terms of construction. Even walking to passport control, the ceilings hadn’t been completed, and some conveyors hadn’t even been inserted yet.

This is all despite the airport displaying signage that they completed their terminal 2 expansion in 2020, of which, from the inside, they aren’t quite there yet.

Looking Ahead to Summer 2023 – Lessons Learned?

In the case of Manchester Airport, it does seem that they are very slowly beginning to learn their lesson on this. There, of course, can be fingers pointed everywhere, as I have done in previous Editor Corners, but the airport does look better prepared for the next Summer period in 12 months’ time.

I am also beginning to come to the view that the industry wouldn’t have known when to recruit next, or if they did, it wouldn’t have been enough notice for them to plan their recruitment better.

What we can expect to see in Summer 2023 is a less disruptive period, especially with a full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic expected in Europe.

Lessons have been learned, and at least we now have a case study to fall back on to ensure better communication between the industry and governments, as well as knowing how to plan better on a post-pandemic basis.

It was evident looking back on things that there was always going to be disruption when it comes to “returning to normal”, and that it shouldn’t have been maybe hyped up.

The industry was working on forecasts of what they thought they could handle. Now at least they have tried and will know better for the future. 

Overall: Winter 2022/23 & Summer 2023 Will Be Next Key Indicators

To establish whether full improvement has been made, the Winter 2022/23 and Summer 2023 seasons will be the next tester in terms of whether full improvement to systems has been made or not.

This does give the sector a couple of months to a year to reinforce their new practices and ensure that they work efficiently and flawlessly.

As a personal view, I am confident that the industry, as well as Manchester Airport individually, will get to where they need to be.

It is probably also the impatience of wanting to go on holiday again which has resulted in the negative PR too, so we can definitely expect this to improve in the next busy season and then we can return to a level of happy normalcy, which is what the industry has been craving for some time now.

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