Tuesday, 21 May 2024

None of the UK's busiest airports have fast-track security scanners

Ministers are accused of failing Christmas holidaymakers as none of the UK’s busiest airports have been fitted with fast-track security scanners

  •  The ‘next-generation security checkpoints’ are only in place at one UK airport

Ministers have been accused of failing Christmas holidaymakers after it emerged that none of Britain’s ten busiest airports have fully installed fast-track security scanners.

Aviation minister Anthony Browne disclosed that the ‘next-generation security checkpoints’ – which are designed to slash waiting times by letting passengers leave laptops and liquids in their carry-on baggage – are only in place at one UK airport.

This is believed to be London City, the country’s 15th busiest airport – but there are fears that Britain’s largest transport hubs won’t complete the work by the deadline in June.

The busiest, Heathrow, said last night it could not confirm whether it would be able to meet the deadline.

Manchester, the third busiest, and Stansted, the fourth, said the full installation will take until 2025.

The ‘Next Generation Security Checkpoints’ – intended to slash waiting times by allowing passengers to leave laptops and liquids in their carry-on baggage – are only in one UK airport

Arriving passengers queue at UK Border Control at Heathrow Airport

Passengers queue for check in at Manchester Airport’s Terminal 1

The slow progress leaves passengers facing big queues at security during the busy festive period and beyond.

Mr Browne told MPs last week that the deadline had been ‘delayed several times’ and he was meeting industry figures urgently to discuss the installation of the scanners.

He added: ‘June 2024 is the end deadline. So my message to airports is to start implementing it now – don’t wait for the deadline.’ 

Air passengers have faced longer queues for security checks and strict limits on the volume of liquids they can carry in hand luggage since a plot by a UK terror cell to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid bombs was foiled in 2006.

The latest scanners, which create a 3D image of the contents of baggage, let airports ditch the 100ml liquid limit and the requirement that travellers put them in a clear plastic bag.

Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow attorney general, said: ‘For families heading overseas this Christmas, it will be hugely frustrating that we have reached another holiday with no progress. There is no sense of urgency.’ 

Travel expert Nicky Kelvin tested out London City Airport’s ‘fancy’ new scanners in May

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency travel consultancy, said: ‘UK airports need to step up a gear to install the newest equipment.

READ MORE – None of Britain’s 10 busiest airports have fully installed new fast-track security scanners that allow passengers to board with liquids still in their carry-on bags 

‘Security lanes are faster overseas than many UK airports, and this Christmas will see UK departing passengers queuing for longer than they have to due to the fact the latest equipment has not been installed.

‘This has to be a priority.’

Last night, Tory MPs also raised concerns about summer holidays potentially being ruined if the technology was not phased in gradually.

Iain Stewart, chairman of the Commons transport committee, said: ‘We worry we will see a build-up of queues until everyone gets used to them.’

Tory MP Greg Smith, who also sits on the committee, added: ‘It’s a total nightmare – all airports seem to be going for the absolute deadline. There needs to be phasing.’

The Department for Transport said: ‘The UK has some of the most robust aviation security measures in the world, and this cutting-edge technology will enhance security and boost the passenger experience. We are in regular contact with airports as they move towards June 2024.’

The Airport Operators Association said: ‘These are significant projects with complex delivery programmes, requiring major construction and renovation. Airports are making every effort to ensure the passenger experience remains positive while this is undertaken and are working hard to meet the Government’s timeline.’

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