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Airport boss tells of Stansted's difficult summer

Stansted Airport is flying high in 2018
Stansted Airport is flying high in 2018

Airport boss Ken O'Toole has confessed Stansted suffered"a very difficult summer".

Stansted Airport chief executive Ken OToole
Stansted Airport chief executive Ken OToole

The chief executive praised his staff reaction to the hub’s busiest ever holiday season, when external forces piled on the pressure.

He told a meeting of the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee (STACC) that much of the past year in charge has been spent “influencing” third parties in a bid to resolve problems.

As the airport dealt with 27 million passengers in a year for the first time ever, travellers faced delays caused by Ryanair, Swissport, NATS and Border Force.

Mr O’Toole said: “When things go wrong, it’s our staff and our people who have to deal with the consequences.

“The airport faced a number of operational challenges over the summer season, the majority of which related to adverse weather across the East of England and mainland Europe, frequent UK air traffic control delays and restrictions, and airlines experiencing problems with their baggage handling operations at the airport.

“Significant progress has been made with key third parties to address areas under their control in advance of summer 2019 to ensure adequate resources are in place to support the continued growth of the airport, and which will complement the continued improvements and direct investment being made by the airport to those areas under our direct control.”

Mr O’Toole said that he had already received assurances from Ryanair, its ground handler and air traffic controllers that disruptions would not be repeated.

But he called on STACC to help put pressure on the Home Office to provide a better service at passport control. Border Force pledges to process 95% of European Economic Area (EEA) passengers within 25 minutes and 95% of non-EEA passengers within 45 minutes.

“My issue is with their service level standards,” he said. “We do not believe 25 and 45 minutes for 95% of people is an acceptable service standard.”

He told the committee that following a “lessons learned” exercise focusing on last summer’s performance, the airport had tightened up its own procedures to be “Fit for Summer 2018”.

Measures included:

▀ A targeted £500,000 investment reconfigured the terminal forecourt

▀ Traffic marshals were employed for the forecourt

▀ Check-in ambassadors were in place to answer questions

▀ 89 new airport security ambassadors – with two for every security lane – helping passengers prepare for the search area

▀ The team leaders in security have increased from five per shift to 24

▀ A third bag searcher was added to the roster for each lane so that rejected bags did not cause delays

▀ An X-ray technician was based in security during peak operating hours to improve response times to breakdowns

▀ Almost £3m was invested in a major overhaul and maintenance of the security equipment, including a dedicated workshop next to the security hall.

Mr O’Toole said that his security teams were now handling 235 passengers an hour in each lane compared with 190 previously and the time spent in security was now 12 minutes on average.

The airport has also spent £1.7m on 700 new seats, added 12 new check-in desks and upgraded its WiFi from 200mb to 800mb and provides it free as standard for four hours.


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