Alastair Dalton: Airport must mind its Ps and queues

SCOTLAND’S busiest airport may never have been so popular but its reputation risks being tarnished until security queue delays are finally sorted out to the satisfaction of passengers.
Picture: APPicture: AP
Picture: AP

Edinburgh attracts record numbers of fliers who now regularly top one million a month.

The airport also employs more than 5,000 people and its runway has been described as Scotland’s single most valuable economic asset.

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All in all, it is an extremely significant operation, not least as Scotland’s principal gateway for visitors from across the world, on which the country places so much store.

However, the odd thing about its security queues, which passengers have complained about all year, is that the airport has faced this problem before – the best part of a decade ago.

Regular travellers thought it had been fixed in 2010 with the opening of a new security hall, which appeared to have improved on Glasgow airport’s own successful new hall, completed two years previously.

But in expanding its terminal further to cope with growth, and replacing its security hall once again, Edinburgh appeared to be back to nightmare queues.

Despite creating a larger hall, at a cost of £25 million, there was criticism from the start of trials last autumn, with Rebus author Ian Rankin describing it as “embarrassing”. In April, passengers fumed at “absolute shambles” after being kept waiting for an hour.

This was followed a month later by an apology by now-departed chief operating officer David Wilson, who admitted: “Our passengers deserve better.” Then in July, the airport insisted it had “turned the corner” on the problem. However, this week Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson triggered much agreement when she tweeted – after at least her fourth experience of the new system – “never ceases to amaze me how terrible it is. Useless”.

The airport said its problem stemmed from unexpectedly rapid growth, a 10 per cent increase in passengers that was double the forecast.

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It said the main influx had not been from additional routes and flights, but planes flying fuller.

If this is the case, it would seem airlines could do more to help by more readily updating the airport when they have a surge in bookings. After all, not many passengers turn up at airports at the last minute to book their flight.

However, help as that might, the airport shoulders the responsibility of resolving the problem.

Yes, not all passengers have been delayed. But enough of them say they still are for the need to address that to warrant an even higher priority.