Passengers voice frustration at security delays as 70 miss their flights at Belfast International
People are queued out the front door for security checks
Passengers hit out against "hopeless" security arrangements at Belfast International Airport yesterday after long delays caused around 70 people to miss their flights.
As temperatures dipped to near-freezing, long queues stretched out the front door of the airport.
Eamonn Keyes (30) from Omagh commutes every week to Edinburgh and said he arrives now at 6.45am for his 8.15am flight.
"The cabin crew told us 36 people didn't make the flight even though it was fully booked," he said. "They had no choice but having to fly on. I have priority booking for easyJet but I couldn't even get to that because of the queues on the stairs.
"I've been flying this route for eight years now and I always have to leave 45 minutes early in the morning."
He continued: "Sometimes I fly out of Dublin Airport or Belfast City and they're just miles ahead. If they can do it why can't Belfast International? I think it might stop people even considering a visit to Belfast."
The airport's managing director Graham Keddie apologised for the delays but promised the issue would be fully addressed by Easter.
"Basically, we've decreased the number of lanes by one (down to five) while we work on an expansion project," he said.
"We should go back to six lanes on Thursday and by the time we get to Easter we'll have eight lanes which will be fully manned."
He added the airport had advised passengers to turn up two hours early for their flight and compensation claims would be considered on a case by case basis.
By 12.30pm yesterday the queues were moving quickly, but other passengers said they were far from impressed.
John and Catherine O'Donnell from Co Donegal fly out once a week to London Gatwick.
"The problem with security here is they tend to open one desk even if it's busy; they don't seem to have any urgency to get you through," said Mr O'Donnell.
"Even with the fast-track queue, they sometimes let the ordinary queue filter into that so that defeats the purpose."
Mrs O'Donnell said: "It definitely adds stress. We always allow two hours for the journey; there are days you're struggling and think you won't get through.
"They seriously need to do something about it. We use this airport every week and it doesn't get any better."
France-based Jason Walsh (38) is a frequent flyer from the International.
"I'm a reporter based in Paris so I come home a lot to see my family. There are always long delays at this airport as far as I'm concerned. I find it very unsatisfactory in general. I also get trouble coming in there as the chip in my Irish passport is broken. I've flown in and out of Paris during the terrorist attacks, in and out of Dublin, and no one has ever given me any trouble about my passport. Here they always stop me and ask for further identification.
"I think the security is overly strict at this airport and they're acting like it's 1987."
Anne Liggett from Downpatrick, aged in her 70s, was bound for Lisbon via London Gatwick.
"Where do I start? I was here in May last year at 7.30am to start security and couldn't get sitting down until my flight was called at 9am," she said. "I heard this morning was absolutely horrendous.
"I was supposed to be getting a flight at 5.05pm, but the company I dealt with said it didn't want to be responsible for me missing the flight and picked me up at 11.45am. I don't know what this is airport is thinking about, it's hopeless in that regard."
Margaret Conway (68) was bound for London Gatwick.
She said: "I did leave a bit early today but I have to say I've never had any problems with delays here before."
Jolene Wright (28) and friend Rio (25) were going to Iceland.
"To be honest I've never really had any problem here but I usually book very early morning flights to avoid the queues or fly from Dublin," Ms Wright said.
"I get anxiety anyway going through security so standing in a queue for so long stresses me out even more."
Richard Williams, head of Transport at the Consumer Council, said that while he recognised work to expand security lanes, he said passengers remained "frustrated" at delays.
"The Consumer Council is asking passengers to complain directly to BIA and their airline, if they have missed their flight due to unfair delays at airport security," he said.
If passengers are unhappy with the response, they can contact the Consumer Council on 080 0121 6022 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr Keddie has said the airport had kept within all standards set by regulatory authorities.
A statement from airport security provider Wilson James said it supported the airport "in its aim of improving the passenger journey through the security screening area of the airport and we share the airport's feelings of this morning's queues which proved challenging whilst operating five out of six the lanes during ongoing building work".
It added: "The sixth lane will be back in operation this week followed by the additional two lanes in time for Easter."
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson branded the queues a "shambles" and called for an investigation.
Sinn Fein MLA Declan Kearney asked management to reassure that journeys wouldn't be affected by security delays.
"There is now widespread uncertainty about whether Belfast International Airport security systems can guarantee passengers will be processed on time," he said. "That has implications for airport services and overall commercial reputation.
"Belfast International Airport management as a matter of urgency needs to provide firm reassurance to passengers that airport systems and services are going to function efficiently from now on, and that there will be no repeat of the chaos which occurred this morning."