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Airport and security firm ‘working hard to improve’

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PHYSICAL bag checks at Guernsey Airport could be reduced, if new technology is introduced.

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In the last 12 months the UK Civil Aviation Authority has carried out a review of the processing of passengers at Guernsey Airport.

This resulted in more stringent requirements being applied for searches of people and cabin baggage to comply with the UK aviation regulatory standards.

Several letters have been written to the Guernsey Press about perceived insensitive and over-the-top security procedures by ‘surly’ officers at Guernsey Airport.

Concerns have also been raised by Deputy John Gollop, who has submitted a series of questions to the States’ Trading Supervisory Board to find out if security staff are being over-zealous in their checks of low-risk passengers.

Guernsey Ports general manager Colin Le Ray said regulatory standard requirements presented significant challenges for airport management and its security contractor, G4S.

However both parties recognised that as a result service levels had fallen at times, and said they were committed to addressing this.

‘We are conscious of the concerns that have been expressed, whether as a result of queues being experienced at peak times [or] the additional search requirements, which some passengers have found intrusive.

‘We apologise to anyone who has been affected by these issues and we are working very hard with G4S to improve the situation swiftly.’

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Mr Le Ray said more stringent compliance monitoring being applied by the aviation regulator has meant new security screening procedures had to be introduced.

This included more frequent and more thorough searches of cabin baggage.

To improve this, additional customer service training will be provided for security staff, boosted by follow-up site visits by trainers.

‘While it may at times seem disproportionate, we are obliged to comply with national and international aviation regulations,’ Mr Le Ray said.

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‘Failure to do so could result in our security permit being suspended, which would halt flights, and that is unthinkable.’

He said there were, however, changes that could be made locally to improve the situation.

‘The same regulatory standards apply throughout the UK, but how they are implemented is influenced by the physical equipment available at each airport – in the case of Guernsey we currently have relatively basic X-ray machinery to screen cabin baggage.’

Airport officials are looking at options for replacing these with more modern screening systems and other technology such as body scanners.

‘These will not remove entirely the requirement for body and bag searches, but would reduce them significantly,’ they said.

‘At the same time we would look at other improvements to help smooth the customer journey, such as self-return trays.’

The current issues are not related to the recent changes to the layout of Guernsey Airport, however Mr Le Ray said it does provide the opportunity for improvement.

‘The changes have created additional space and headroom to accommodate this more modern technology.’

The idea of having passengers pay £10 for a fast-track security lane has not been advanced.

Mr Le Ray said: ‘Not least [this is because] those looking at it have also been involved in the current compliance improvements. In any case if we are intending to charge, we want to ensure the enhanced service can be provided consistently.’

Zoe Fitch

By Zoe Fitch
News reporter

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