The boss of one of the UK’s biggest airports quit last night, having presided over days of Easter getaway chaos.
Karen Smart, the managing director of Manchester Airport, resigned with immediate effect hours after the city’s mayor said that the police could be drafted in to help sort the turmoil.
The airport has been blighted with huge queues for weeks, although the disruption increased in recent days as passenger numbers surged to pre-pandemic levels after all Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.
Yesterday passengers branded the business a “total disgrace” as they waited for hours to reach security. Queues snaked outside the terminal at the height of the morning chaos, while holidaymakers with “fast track” access complained of 90-minute waits.
The airline sector is grappling with staff shortages as well as soaring Covid-19 rates which are leading to high levels of staff absence. Both easyJet and British Airways were forced to cancel about 70 flights today as a result.
It came as infection rates among the oldest age groups in England reached their highest levels of the pandemic and are continuing to rise, scientists said.
By March 31, one in 12 over 55s were estimated to be infected, 20 times the average for that age group during the pandemic. Although the estimate came with some uncertainty, the researchers said that the levels were “unprecedentedly high”, warning that severe disease could follow.
The findings come from the final round of Imperial College’s React study, which randomly samples 100,000 people in England to test for coronavirus.
Airports are braced for another day of disruption tomorrow as Britons flee the grim weather for sunnier climes. This weekend is expected to be a major pinch point as holidaymakers returning from breaks during the first week of the school holidays converge with those departing for Easter week.
The recent travel disruption has been amplified by the suspension of P&O Ferries services after the company fired 800 British crew without notice on March 17.
DFDS Ferries, which has been carrying its passengers on the busiest Dover-Calais route, said that it would have no room for P&O Ferries’ passengers from Friday to Sunday, causing misery for those who were hoping the line would save their holiday plans.
Last night the boss of Manchester Airports Group, which also owns Stansted and East Midlands airports, thanked Smart for her service.
Charlie Cornish, the group’s chief executive, said: “Over the last two years, Karen has guided Manchester Airport through the most challenging period of its 84-year history, having made a major contribution to MAG throughout her time with the business.
“I am sorry to lose Karen after her years of valuable service, but also understand her desire to return to the south for family reasons and indeed to explore new career opportunities.”