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Airport says "sorry” and spends £1.5m on new security equipment

Airport says

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Airport says "sorry” and spends £1.5m on new security equipment


More than £1.5million is being spent by Guernsey Airport to upgrade the equipment at its security check point, with the first piece of kit being a full body scanner, which is expected to be up and running by the end of September.

The scanner will replace the hands on full body searches currently carried out if someone 'beeps' when going through the metal detector archway.

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Pictured: The new scanners that are currently on order. 

Ash Nicholas, Head of Aviation Services at Guernsey Airport, also said they wanted to apologise to passengers who have experienced poor service recently - he made it clear they are now going to take steps to ensure any issues are addressed.

"We are making every effort to address the recent situation, and once all the new scanning equipment is in place we are confident travellers will see a significant improvement. In the meantime I can only apologise to anyone who has been affected, and we are grateful for everyone’s patience while all the changes happen.”

Complaints about the state of affairs at the airport have been all over social media for months, but the airport did promise improvements were on the way in May. 

The main complaints relate to long queues and excessive delays in clearing security, and some passengers have voiced concerns over frequent and potentially intrusive body searches.

The new million pound investment should help to alleviate these issues, Mr Nicholas said, and bring Guernsey Airprot to the standard it expects to be at, rather than 'well below' it.

The full body scanner will only be the first phase of purchases, with automatic tray return systems and better cabin baggage screening. 

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Mr Nicholas said they had known they would need to be making security stricter for some time, but 'processes' had slowed down how quickly they could acquire new kit to offset those changes. 

He did say the poor service was due to a number of challenges, especially with under-staffing, which on many occasions had reduced the central search area to one security lane at peak times.

We know this has resulted in long queues, to maintain a compliant security screening process. We can only apologise again to anyone who has been affected, and would like to reassure travellers that we are determined to improve the current situation, to overcome these issues and provide a positive customer experience. We are taking a number of actions to address these concerns.

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Pictured: Ash Nicholas is the Head of Aviation Services at the Airport. 

Mr Nicholas said the new body scanner would reduce the need for manual body searches, which have been the source of many complaints.

“Most travellers will be familiar with whole body scanners at other UK airports and will know how quickly a scan can be carried out compared to a manual search. It uses the latest technology, is wheelchair compatible, has step free access and is less restrictive in space than the older enclosed scanners used in some airports," he said.

"Once it is installed, if a passenger activates the archway metal detector they will be asked to step into the scanner, rather than be subjected to a manual body search. If the scanner then indicates there is a problem, it will identify where on the body and that will enable a much more targeted, less invasive manual search. Guernsey Airport is also proposing to replace the machines currently used to scan cabin baggage this year.

What exactly is a body scanner?

  • The scanners are state of the art technology that automatically detect potentially dangerous items on the body or in clothing. 
  • The panels emit extremely low-power millimeterwaves in very short succession to record 3D information.
  • The scanners are designed to protect privacy - they do not create a photograph, but just evaluate physical information. 
  • The transmitter power is substantially lower than that of a mobile phone's emissions.
  • They are disability friendly for wheel chair users. 

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Since the new security area was opened, queues have been much longer, but the airport has also had problems with its baggage scanners breaking, slowing down the process even more. 

Mr Nicholas added that security contractor G4S was also recruiting more staff to reduce delays. All have to go through a rigorous training programme, before they can take up their role.

Five new local recruits have recently completed their training, achieved security clearance, and are now assisting existing staff in the security search areas. Additional staff are also being interviewed shortly, with a view that they be offered employment before commencing their three-week training and site induction courses. This will increase numbers to a level commensurate with the airport security operation requirements.

Pictured top: Ash Nicholas. 

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