Aldergrove airport ought to be able to foresee demand in high summer — its security delays have been happening for months

A passenger at Belfast International Airport took this picture on his phone of the long queue for security in May 2018. He wrote:"Chaos before security at #BFS #Aldergrove queues down the  stairs. Some poor school group headed to Holland caught up."  Long delays have been a problem over the summer but as the picture shows, they predate that. Ben Lowry heard of a huge queue in January. Picture taken with his permission from the twitter feed '@adrianhuston
A passenger at Belfast International Airport took this picture on his phone of the long queue for security in May 2018. He wrote:"Chaos before security at #BFS #Aldergrove queues down the stairs. Some poor school group headed to Holland caught up." Long delays have been a problem over the summer but as the picture shows, they predate that. Ben Lowry heard of a huge queue in January. Picture taken with his permission from the twitter feed '@adrianhuston

Last week I wrote about how Northern Ireland would be better served by one major airport at Aldergrove, rather than three different ones (see link below).

But I was not endorsing Belfast International Airport as it is now.

It was no surprise to me to hear a passenger on BBC Radio Ulster yesterday morning say that it took him 50 minutes to get through Aldergrove security on Wednesday.

The airport’s pitiable excuse was that the security provider had “staffing issues”.

This is peak holiday season and staffing should long be foreseeable. You would expect the airport and its provider to have an arrangement — perhaps financial incentives — to ensure staff to cover shortfalls. You would also expect the airport to estimate passenger numbers based on flights and likely loads.

The radio presenter said the airport has had problems this summer, but it goes further back. Look at the picture above taken in May.

And on Saturday January 6 I was going on holiday after working the festive season and was told by one of the security staff that a few days previously it had taken more than an hour to get through security. Some angry passengers missed flights.

Worse than that, the security person told me it had been quiet before the busy spell and some staff were sent home.

I made a mental note to make a press query about it on my return to work but, when I did 10 days later, there was more pressing news.

Aldergrove advises people to turn up two hours early, but if you are only making a short flight to Great Britain this makes it an unattractive airport to use. The situation is made worse by airlines getting strict on gate closure times.

Often a ticket with a budget carrier will say the gate closes 30 minutes before departure (it rarely does close that early but they can turn passengers away any time after that, and increasingly do).

Months ago I was turned off a British Airways flight at Belfast City airport 17 minutes before departure. I had been relaxed about getting to the gate because BA has a lot of business passengers and used to be flexible about gate closure. Unlike budget airlines it does not stipulate a gate close time.

Travellers be warned. You might face a vast security queue at an airport — Aldergrove — that charges £1 to drop off/pick up passengers by car. And you might, in all airports, face an airline that is rigid on early gate closure.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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