Manchester Airport’s chief executive has resigned after weeks of chaos in which thousands of passengers missed their flights due to queues of up to seven hours.
Karen Smart resigned on Tuesday after being strongly criticized by airport staff as well as angry travellers. She had been in the job for two years, the most eventful period in aviation history.
“Having taken up the job at the start of the pandemic, she decided it was now time to return to the south of England, where her family is based, to pursue new career opportunities,” Manchester Airports Group said. (MAG) in a press release. declaration.
Ian Costigan, MAG Group’s Chief Transformation Officer, will assume the role of Interim Managing Director and will be responsible for implementing the necessary recruitment programs to increase operational capacity over the summer.
Smart was due to meet Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, as well as Unite, the trade union, on Tuesday.
Travelers faced long delays and chaotic scenes with queues outside the terminals to reach check-in and hordes of people waiting to go through security and collect their luggage. A man told the BBC on Sunday he waited seven hours to miss his flight and saw ‘sick on the floor with no one cleaning it’ as people queued in a ‘boiling confined area’ .
Piles of suitcases were left in the terminals after travelers gave up waiting to collect their bags and instead left to go home.
An airport worker publicly resigned this week over what he called “dangerous” and “chaotic” operations.
Ray Ellis, who had worked at Manchester Airport since 1994 and had been a health and safety officer, said he was speaking out because he was “genuinely concerned about the safety of passengers”.
The airport, along with much of the aviation industry, has struggled to recruit laid-off staff after airports and pandemic travel closed.
As the Easter getaway boosts travel, similar issues have hit other airports including Heathrow and Birmingham.
More than 1,000 UK flights have been axed in recent days due to crew becoming ill amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
Industry experts also said airlines and airports were struggling due to the number of job cuts made during the pandemic.
John O’Neill, North West regional industrial manager for Unite, said after mass layoffs due to Covid some workers had found alternative jobs with similar wages and may not be willing to return to work at the airport by working unsociable hours for similar rates of Pay.
O’Neill said: “There’s a huge recruiting problem, a huge recruiting problem. It’s the test of summer, the Easter holidays, it’s the test of summer. Summer is going to be much worse than that. It’s time to put everything in place, otherwise the summer is going to be very difficult.
MAG, which also manages Stansted Airport and East Midlands, is partly owned by Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities, with the largest stake held by Manchester Council. Australian investment firm IFM Investors also holds a 35% stake.
The MAG airport website currently offers jobs for drivers with a starting salary of £13,000 a year and security ‘ambassador’ jobs for students paying £10.53 an hour, including including night shifts, 3am departures, weekends and holidays.
MAG Managing Director Charlie Cornish said: “Over the past two years, Karen has guided Manchester Airport through the most challenging period in its 84-year history, having made a major contribution to MAG. throughout his career in the company.
“I am sorry to lose Karen after her years of valuable service, but I also understand her desire to return to the south for family reasons and even to explore new career opportunities.
“While there are certainly other challenges ahead, I am confident that we will soon start to see the benefits of the recovery plans that Karen has helped put in place and I look forward to working with Ian and his team. direction to move them forward.”