Alastair Dalton: Queues common fixture at security

AIRPORT security queues are a real bugbear, writes Alastair Dalton

Airport security queues can be a real bugbear. Picture: Jane Barlow

Everyone has a bee in their bonnet about transport and for air passengers, security queues are among the greatest irritants. It will no doubt have become a preoccupation of many regular fliers who have used Edinburgh Airport over the past few months.

The capital city’s airport has been a major success story, eclipsing Glasgow in 2007 to become Scotland’s busiest.

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However, as passenger numbers have continued to increase, so have its problems.

Chief executive Gordon Dewar admitted in a BBC documentary it had come “close” to the edge” two summers ago when record numbers of travellers threatened to overwhelm the terminal.

Since then, significant new routes have been won, such as two to the Middle East, adding to the strain.

Technology has helped smooth some aspects of the airport experience for passengers, such as electronic boarding passes and self-service check-in.

However, it appears to have yet to ease the frustration of travellers passing through security.

Glasgow, albeit with fewer passengers, has avoided security queue nightmares since opening a new security hall in 2008. Last year, 99 per cent of passengers waited less than the target maximum of ten minutes.

After notoriously long queues at its old security area, things improved at Edinburgh Airport with its own new hall two years later.

However, troubles re-emerged this year when a new security area started operating in the terminal extension.

This has six lanes compared with the previous 12, but the airport describes them as “high performance”. That means – at least in theory – that passengers can pass through more quickly, such as by separating those with bags that need manual searches.

But the opposite seems to have happened all too frequently. Queues snaking through the terminal have become familiar to those flying at “peak” times. In airline terms, that’s Monday morning, Thursday afternoon, Friday and Saturday morning and all day Sunday – much of the week.

The airport said yesterday the technological glitch which caused the latest mayhem had been fixed.

But the biggest test of the new hall will start this weekend with the beginning of the school holidays – the airport’s busiest time of year.

To underline the importance of getting the problems fixed, a senior executive of Etihad Airways, in Edinburgh to officially launch its new Abu Dhabi route two weeks ago, said the “ground experience” was as important as its service in the air.

He had yet to get caught in a security queue. The airport will want to make sure he never does.