Who would run an airport? | The Independent Business News

AAs an example of the term “thankful job”, I give you “pretty much any job in any airport”. For a more precise definition, try “airport boss”.

Karen Smart – chief executive of Manchester Airport – has resigned. His resignation comes after weeks of travel chaos at what is usually the UK’s third busiest airport (after Heathrow and Gatwick).

About a month ago, as Covid restrictions eased and the propensity to travel increased, passengers using Manchester started reporting long queues at security – a stark contrast to my last trip to from there on March 6, 2020, when I was almost the only passenger.

Two years later, the search process has sometimes become so slow that people miss planes or find them delayed, as pilots and cabin crew (along with passengers who arrived six hours before departure) waited for the missing payload.

Some airport insiders have complained about the wrong kind of passengers: People who haven’t flown in two years seem to have forgotten the 100ml liquids rule and show up with giant bottles of shampoo and lotion. Solar cream. Others neglect to check the arrival rules for their destination until they reach the airport, adding to the slow-motion scrum at check-in.

Social media, as always, craves guilt – and Ms. Smart has become the unfortunate girl of the fall. But the chaos in aviation over the past two years, with one inconsistent set of travel restrictions after another, has made turn-based travel either illegal or incredibly complicated.

The women and men who had propelled the UK’s rise to the most successful aviation industry in the world have been laid off, made redundant or simply found more enjoyable jobs which do not require grossly anti-social hours in environments very stressful.

British Airways and easyJet are currently witnessing the downsizing and deskilling of aviation, each making around 70 flight cancellations a day. But airlines are in a much stronger position than airports.

Carriers can move assets around to maximize their revenue potential. Airports have a bad habit of standing still. They are both at the mercy of airlines and ever-fickle travellers.

Airlines love to announce new routes. But they are absolutely ruthless when they leave airports when a better opportunity – or at least a slower way to lose money – presents itself. Just ask the bosses at beautiful Prestwick in south-west Scotland, which was for a time the country’s low-cost getaway but now only has a handful of daily flights when Ryanair is in a good mood.

Or Southend, which until 2020 was on track to become Essex’s second success story (after Stansted) by providing a simple and user-friendly alternative to other London airports.

When aviation implodes, airlines retreat to their hearts. Manchester fared better than most, but by March 2021 had lost 95% of its passengers. (At least it performed better than its Manchester Airports Group sister East Midlands, which revealed that all of its users in that dreadful month could fit on a double-decker bus.)

Going from 100% to 5% customers and back to 80 or 90% in two years would be a challenge for any boss in any industry. I wish Karen Smart good luck in her next post, and hope that this task brings her deserved thanks.

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This notice was published: 2022-04-05 19:04:02

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