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RAF jet escorts Qatar Airways plane to Manchester

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Page last updated: 11th Aug 2014 - 09:45 AM

Earlier this week an RAF Typhoon fighter jet was scrambled from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to escort Qatar Airways flight QR23 to Manchester Airport. The flight, which had taken off from Doha, was deemed to be a security threat to the UK after a passenger claimed that there was a bomb on board.

The Airbus flight carried 269 passengers and 13 crew and landed safely at a remote part of the runway before armed police boarded the plane and arrested a 47-year-old man. Nine incoming flights had to be diverted and flights were fully suspended for 25 minutes.

Police were later able to confirm that the incident had been a hoax and it now transpires that the man, from the North West of England, has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He had handed a note to a member of the cabin crew stating that there was a bomb on board and had apparently seemed sober and coherent. Air traffic control was advised accordingly, resulting in the action from the RAF Quick Reaction Alert Fighter.

It seems that although this particular incident has hit the headlines in a big way, perhaps because of other recent bad news in the aviation industry, fighter jets are launched more often than you might think. They were scrambled 17 times last year, 21 times in 2012 and 20 in 2011. Reasons for scrambling include if a plane has lost contact, if it is not responding to air traffic control, if a security threat is reported (as in this case) or if it is acting unusually.

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Saudia Airlines to add direct flights from Manchester to Jeddah

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Page last updated: 29th Jan 2014 - 02:31 PM

Saudia Airlines, the flag carrier airline of Saudi Arabia, will be returning to Manchester airport in 2014 with three direct flights to Jeddah per week. Flights will depart from Manchester Airport’s terminal two on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays beginning on March 28th.

Saudia had terminated all routes from Manchester Airport in 2007, but now with the city's quickly growing diversity, airport authorities are confident that these re-established routes will attract large numbers of both business and leisure passengers.

At the time of the 2001 census, 9.1 % of Manchester's population identified themselves as Muslim, giving Greater Manchester one of the largest Muslim populations in the UK. Part of this statistic can be attributed to the many Saudi students who have chosen to further their education in the internationally recognised universities in the north of England. These students will now have an easier and more convenient way to get home, and others will benefit from this service when travelling in the religious pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah.

Ken O’Toole, chief commercial officer for Manchester Airports Group, stated: "The introduction of this route is testament to the strength of Manchester airport's catchment and we look forward to this direct service supporting the strong commercial, ethnic and educational relationships that exist between Saudi Arabia and the north west."

Saudia is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation and joined the SkyTeam airline alliance on 29 May 2012. The airline was once the largest carrier in the region, but due to the continuing development and rapid growth of other airports, Saudia is now ranked third largest, behind Emirates and Qatar Airways.

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Staff at Manchester on look-out for human trafficking

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Page last updated: 16th Dec 2013 - 02:42 PM

Staff at Manchester Airport have been undertaking some unusual training recently, helping them to detect vulnerable men, women and children being brought into the UK illegally.

Front-line immigration officials are of course the most obvious staff likely to pick up tell-tale signs. However, other staff, including cleaners and baggage handlers, have also undergone the training, which was delivered by various agencies, including the Home Office, Greater Manchester Police, and the UK Border Force, as well as charities such as Stop the Traffik and Saheli, a Manchester-based charity that campaigns against forced marriage.

The usual perception that human trafficking involves people being brought into the country in containers or as stowaways is simply not the whole story. They are just as likely to be sitting on a plane and then queuing up at immigration with everyone else.

Staff were trained to look out for signs including over-hearing passengers rehearsing their stories about where they come from and why they have made the journey, individuals in groups who look out of place or unhappy, signs of fear or anxiety including body language, and physical signs of abuse.

They were also told of the need to continue their vigilance after leaving work. Once in the local community, the training can still be useful as it is frequently not until vulnerable people leave the airport that their predicament becomes clear. They may have been lured to the UK with promises of a better life only to discover that they have in fact been duped into working in the sex industry.

The airport chaplain at Manchester, George Lane, has described the training as invaluable not only for helping his staff but also the vulnerable people involved.

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Winter looking good for Manchester after an excellent summer

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Page last updated: 3rd Dec 2013 - 02:43 PM

Manchester Airport processed over 20 million passengers this summer, making it its busiest summer for five years – and the good news continues for the airport.

Figures have in fact been on the increase for the last 17 months, and the start of the winter period is looking good. Passenger figures were up by 6.6% in Oct as compared with Oct 2012: an increase of 1.8 million people.

With many new routes from Manchester, it is little wonder that the airport is reaping the rewards of campaigns such as “Fly Manchester”. New routes from Ryanair, easyJet, Thomas Cook and Jet2.com, and increased services from many airlines mean that over 153,000 more seats are available this winter compared with last.

New destinations on offer are as follows:

  • easyJet – Lyon and Prague
  • Ryanair – Lanzarote, Paphos and Krakow
  • Thomas Cook – St Lucia, Barbados and Antigua
  • Jet2.com – Faro, Lyon, Palma and Venice

Additional services on pre-existing routes are as follows:

  • easyJet – Basle, Copenhagen, Reykjavik and Tel Aviv
  • Ryanair – Dublin
  • Thomas Cook – Fuerteventura, Tunisia and the Gambia
  • Turkish Airlines - Istanbul
  • Jet2.com – unspecified Spanish destinations
  • Emirates and Etihad – unspecified destinations in the Middle East

The number of available seats has also been boosted by the introduction of the larger A321 aircraft on Air France’s Paris route.

Praise was also being handed out to Manchester airport by Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red, a Heathrow-bound service that started in March this year. Over a quarter of a million passengers used the service in the first six months. A spokesman said that Virgin Atlantic also has plans to increase capacity on its long-haul services from Manchester airport.

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Macdonalds Hotels in the Manchester Airport Guides

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Page last updated: 1st Aug 2013 - 09:20 AM

Macdonalds Hotels, the UK's largest privately owned hotels group, is now featured in the Manchester Airport Guide. Macdonald Hotels operates 45 hotels across the UK, each one with its own unique style, as well as four resorts in Spain.

The Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa is a modern hotel located in the centre of the city. In addition to its multiple facilities available, the Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa is very well known for being one of the top conference venues in Manchester. With prices starting from £45 per person, the Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa meeting rooms can host conferences up to 250 people, and are well equipped with air-conditioned as well as their own reception area, breakout space and kitchen.

The Harmony & Serenity Spa is available to all guests and will allow both couples and business travellers to relax and enjoy their range of beauty treatments. What's more, the Scottish Steak Club serves the best prime accredited Scottish steaks in an open kitchen, where guests will be able to see how their food is cooked in front of their eyes.

If you wish to find out more about this hotel and others, please visit our Manchester Airport hotels page.

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John Menzies exits four UK airports

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Page last updated: 25th Jul 2012 - 04:14 PM

The cargo firm John Menzies has announced that it will stop operations at four of the UK’s airports at the end of August. The company’s aviation arm, Menzies Aviation, will stop working at Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and East Midlands airports.

Instead, the Edinburgh-based firm, which is 179 years old, will now focus its operations on Heathrow Airport as well as running smaller operations at Belfast and Aberdeen.

The decision to stop operations at four airports has been taken in order to return the company to profitability once more. It is thought that the restructuring will lead to a one-off cost of £3 million.

A large section of John Menzies is involved in newspaper distribution, but in March of this year its aviation service became its most profitable sector. Last year the aviation arm saw profits of £32.3 million compared to £28.8 million for newspapers.

There has been a drop in demand for the transportation of goods by plane, and that has combined with a lack of consumer demand which has led to the decision to restructure the company.

According to a statement from the group, the restructuring will “result in an exceptional write off of up to £3 million” and the work is “expected to be completed by the end of August 2012”.

There are fears that the move could lead to some job losses, and although the firm has said that this may be the case, the number of positions that may go is thought to be very small.

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Holidays 4 U collapses

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Page last updated: 4th Aug 2011 - 02:16 PM

Holidays4U, a tour operator based in Brighton, has collapsed, leaving over 12,000 tourists abroad.

The company, also trading as Aegean Flights, sold package holidays and flights to Turkey (many with the budget airline Onur Air). The company had an annual turnover of £35 million but in common with much of the travel industry had been hard hit by the recession over the last two years.

As well as this being bad news for travellers currently in Turkey, the company also had 50,000 bookings for holidays in the future, leaving many people’s travel plans in disarray just as the school holidays get under way.

According to ABTA there should be no problem with people currently in Turkey getting back to the UK at the right time but just whether they will end up where they started from is another matter.

Holidays4U operated out of numerous UK airports including Belfast, Cardiff, Bristol, Gatwick, Edinburgh and Glasgow but, according to ABTA, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) may experience difficulty getting passengers on flights back to their airport of departure.

It is a distinct possibility, as has happened in the past with tour operators going bust, that hoteliers will ask holiday makers to pay for their accommodation again and travellers are advised to keep all paperwork and submit a claim to the CAA for their consideration.

All future bookings with the company are now cancelled but passengers should get their money back through ATOL. This will come as scant consolation for people looking forward to their holiday, in particular those due to fly out tonight from Manchester airport to Dalaman.

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Tax London passengers, say regional hubs

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Page last updated: 6th Jul 2011 - 02:46 PM

The Air Passenger Duty (APD) is hampering efforts by regional hubs to attract new airlines, according to a consortium of airports, including Birmingham, Bristol, and Kent. Jonathan Bailey, chief of external affairs at Manchester Airport Group (MAG) said that the tax means that small airports have “no future”.

Civil Aviation Authority figures have revealed that passenger numbers at the MAG-owned Bournemouth Airport have fallen from 200,000 for the first quarter of 2007, to just 60,000 for the same period this year, a slump of 70%. Exeter, Prestwick, and Doncaster’s Robin Hood airports have also reported an exodus, with the South Yorkshire hub experiencing a 58% reduction in visitors over the last three years. The culprit, claim airport bosses, is a steady rise in APD, coupled with the bourgeoning success of Heathrow and Gatwick.

Representatives from the UK’s regional airports say that driving business away from Heathrow and Gatwick, via a ‘congestion tax’, would allow smaller hubs to attract more and larger carriers.

“If passengers and airlines want to fly out of airports which are congested then they should pay a premium for doing so”, explained Kent Manston boss, Charles Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan likened the situation at Heathrow Airport, which operates at (or close to) 100% capacity, to the problems experienced by motorists on London’s busiest roads. Motorists in England’s capital, noted the Kent Airport chief, pay a “premium” for the privilege of attending the 5 o’clock crawl through Piccadilly Circus.

Manchester and Birmingham airports operate at 57% and 41% capacity, respectively, which, in layman’s terms, means that they are essentially, half-empty. The two hubs have expressed a readiness to alleviate the pressure on Heathrow Airport, by requesting that willing airlines are plucked from London, and deposited in the North and the Southwest of England. However, the plan would require the construction of a high-speed railway network in order to be a success.

The congestion charge is being touted as a replacement for APD. The tax would scale according to the number of occupied aeroplane slots at an airport. Overloaded hubs would pay more, while the smallest airports could well become exempt from the punitive levy.

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European flag-carrier arrives in Manchester

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Page last updated: 10th Jun 2011 - 02:30 PM

A new six-times-weekly flight to Lisbon in Portugal is now available from Manchester Airport. The route, introduced by European flag-carrier TAP Portugal earlier this month, has already attracted more than 15,000 bookings, according to the Manchester Airport website.

Carlos Paneiro, vice president of sales at TAP, said that the route from Manchester was “an important part” of the carrier’s global expansion plans. “The UK is the number one market for Portugal, in terms of inbound tourism,” Mr Paneiro explained.

TAP is primarily an intercontinental airline, providing flights from Lisbon Portela Airport to Miami in the US, Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre in Brazil, and the Cape Verde Islands among others. The introduction of a route from England to Portugal is ostensibly a way of driving traffic towards TAP’s long-haul routes from Portela Airport.

Manchester Airport previously offered just three flights to Portugal, namely Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Funchal on Madeira, and the city of Porto on the Portuguese mainland. However, Lisbon was on many travellers’ wish lists, as evidenced by the success of TAP’s inaugural flight to the ancient city, which achieved a load factor of 75%.

Airport boss Andrew Harrison was convinced of the route’s success even before the first TAP plane had departed the Ringway hub. Angie Robinson, chief at Manchester’s inward investment firm MIDAS, was equally optimistic, referring to the new flight as “fantastic”.

Tickets for the trip to Lisbon begin at £55, taxes included. Carriage of up to 15kg of golf equipment, for passengers interested in the Paco do Lumiar and Golfe do Estoril courses, and “generous” baggage allowances, are included in the price of the flight.

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Trattoria Milano opens at Manchester Airport

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Page last updated: 27th May 2011 - 02:50 PM

The promise of tax-free shopping is irresistible for some travellers, and many airports boast retail outlets to accommodate the most diverse of passenger needs, from groceries to sunglasses.

Opening new stores is just as important to airport business as finding new routes, so operators will often undertake multi-million pound renovation projects to create more space for restaurants and bookshops. Manchester Airports Group, the largest airport operator in the UK, is a good example. The company recently invested £2m in the renovation of its namesake’s third terminal, with four new stores and an Italian café the most notable additions.

Andrew Harrison, director at Manchester Airport, said that the refurbishment addresses five “areas of concern”, including a perceived lack of seats in the departure lounge, and an insufficient number of information screens within Terminal 3. The improvements reflect the results of a customer satisfaction survey, according to Mr. Harrison. However, the director intimated that staff had “more to do” to bring the terminal into line with customer expectations.

The new café, Trattoria Milano, offers the staples of Italian cuisine, namely, pizzas, pasta dishes, and salads. The other new outlets are Swiss wristwatch manufacturer, Swatch, men’s accessory store, Tie Rack, Dixons Travel, and Rolling Luggage, which sells exactly what its name suggests, suitcases and other bags. Online news source, North West Caterer, claims that an existing branch of Costa Coffee will receive a facelift later this year, to create a “relaxing area” in the busy airport.

Prior to the renovation, Manchester’s Terminal 3 had just four shops (excluding duplicate stores) and an equal number of cafés and restaurants. In comparison, the airport’s Terminal 1 has more than thirty different retail outlets.

Since 2007, Manchester Airport has spent more than £80m on improvements to its three terminals.

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‘Airport City’ to create 7,000 jobs

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Page last updated: 5th May 2011 - 12:32 PM

The area to the northeast of Manchester Airport is to become one of George Osborne’s new Enterprise Zones.

Loosely defined, an Enterprise Zone is an area of land that stimulates growth via the provision of ‘luxuries’ to developers. For example, a company that wishes to build an office block within an Enterprise Zone may be afforded tax breaks, less stringent planning regulations, or other bonuses, such as super-fast broadband. The Chancellor hopes to develop 21 such zones in the UK, with the first few to be located in northern areas, such as Leeds, Sheffield, and Liverpool. So far, the only Enterprise Zone in the south of England is at the Royal Docks in Newham, London.

The Enterprise Zone in Manchester will take the form of a 60-acre ‘Airport City’, essentially, a hub for logistics, manufacturing, and freight distribution. The City, which could cost up to £600m, and create 7,000 new jobs, will emulate similar developments in Spain, Germany, and Holland. Stephanie Mullenger, chief at Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the current owner of the Ringway airport, said that the City would be like “a city centre, which has the fantastic connectivity of an international airport". Mrs. Mullenger intimated that the project was already attracting potential investors, but that some “seriously sexy marketing” had to be done if the City is to become more than a developer’s dream.

MAG was quick to note that plans to build the City were already underway before the airport was designated an Enterprise Zone. However, John Atkins, director at MAG Developments, welcomed the Chancellor’s recent announcement, as “underlining the importance of making quick progress on the site”. MAG was invited to consult on the topic with Manchester councillors earlier this month. The operator, which is the largest in the UK, hopes to begin the construction phase during early 2012.

The Airport City will be located a few hundred metres north of Manchester Airport, in the area of open land between Ringway Road West and Hilary Road, close to the town of Wythenshawe.

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Holograms set to speed up security at Manchester

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Page last updated: 9th Feb 2011 - 04:51 PM

New and innovative ideas at British airports are nothing new. Numerous innovations have been tried and tested over the years with the rapid advances in the technology and aviation sectors, with some failing miserably and others becoming part of the normal routine of your average summer holiday. However, officials at Manchester Airport have taken this process one step further, with the airport all set to introduce something that perhaps seems more suited to the science-fiction movie industry.

Manchester Airport has installed two figures at Terminal 1, whose sole purpose for existing is to welcome passengers and inform them of security regulations regarding liquid restrictions. This all sounds quite normal, until you realise that the figures have been formed using holographic technology.

The technology makes use of real-life film of airport staff John Walsh and Julie Capper, with the virtual equivalent of the pair designed to ease the burden on their human equivalents at check-in and security. With airport staff still having to waste precious time and energy on reminding passengers of the up-to-date liquid restrictions for flights departing from Manchester Airport, the hope remains that imparting the knowledge in an instant and memorable way will make the message stick for longer than usual.

Whether or not the hopes for the holographic technology are adequately fulfilled at Manchester Airport does, of course, remain to be seen, but it is undoubtedly a creative employment of the sorts of advances in technology that all industries should be able to take full advantage of.

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Manchester warns on Chinese lanterns

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Page last updated: 3rd Feb 2011 - 10:56 AM

Officials at Manchester Airport have voiced concerns over the use of Chinese lanterns near the Ringway hub. The lanterns, which are essentially miniature hot air balloons made from paper and wire, can travel upwards of a mile into the atmosphere. While seemingly harmless, the lanterns, much like flocks of birds, can be sucked into aeroplane engines, resulting in disaster. The airport says that more than 60 extinguished lanterns were retrieved from its runway over the festive season alone.

“You don’t need to be an engine specialist to know that a piece of metal getting into an aircraft engine can’t be good news,” explained Tim McDermott, operations director at Manchester Airport. The lanterns have also been blamed for the death of livestock, as curious cows are likely to eat them, and false emergency callouts involving the UK coastguard. Lifeboat operators have mistaken the lanterns for distress flares, especially when the glowing orbs travel over bodies of water.

In Asia, the lanterns are believed to bring good luck to those who release them on Chinese New Year. However, Manchester Airport is concerned that one man’s prosperity could spell another man’s doom. The hub has urged lantern users to “think through” their decision to release the tiny airships, or contact their local airport for advice. Unfortunately, there may not be a ‘safe’ location to release the lanterns in urban areas, as many large cities, such as London, have multiple airports.

The lanterns are wind-driven, much like the balloons raced by primary school children, meaning that the paper devices could theoretically have come from tens, or even hundreds, of miles away from Manchester Airport. The hub’s efforts to preserve its passengers could therefore, be in vain, and dependent on a complete ban on the lanterns, a course of action recommended by the National Farmers’ Union. In Europe, Germany and Austria have already made the lanterns illegal.

Equally concerning is the chance that a pilot could be dazzled or otherwise distracted by a passing lantern at a “critical moment,” to quote Tim McDermott. The issue is reminiscent of an ongoing situation at Manchester Airport involving so-called “laser louts,” people who shine laser pens at approaching aircraft, temporarily blinding pilots.

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Jobs all round, as Ryanair expands at Manchester

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Page last updated: 1st Feb 2011 - 05:01 PM

Budget airline, Ryanair, in typically dramatic fashion, has helped to secure hundreds of jobs at Manchester Airport, by introducing a series of new routes to Europe. The carrier will begin flying to Alicante and Madrid in Spain, Faro in Portugal, and Tenerife in the Canary Islands from April 14 2011, and boost the frequency of flights from Manchester to Dublin by two flights per day.

The move will be seen as penance by many observers. Ryanair famously axed 44 flights on nine routes out of Manchester in 2009, resulting in the loss of 600 jobs during the height of the recession. The blue-and-yellow carrier had previously held the airport to ransom, offering an extra 28 flights, or 400,000 new passengers, in exchange for reduced landing fees. The request was denied by airport bosses, and flights to Bremen and Frankfurt in Germany, among others, were pulled on October 1 2009.

Whether Manchester finally acquiesced to Ryanair’s demands is debatable but unlikely, given that reduced fees for one airline would set a precedent for similar concessions for Flybe, Monarch, and the other carriers residing at the airport. Manchester’s director, Andrew Harrison, said that a “mutually beneficial agreement” had been reached with Ryanair, but gave no other insights into the airline’s sudden change of heart.

Ryanair chief, Michael O’Leary, claimed that the airline’s expansion would bring an extra 600,000 passengers into Manchester, equating to a 5% traffic boost “in one stroke.” The Irishman went on to say that there would be a “mix of jobs saved and jobs created,” returning the carrier’s workforce to pre-2010 levels.

Tickets for Alicante and Faro begin at £29.99 for a one-way trip, including all taxes and charges. Madrid and Tenerife come in slightly more expensive at £39.99. A price comparison table on the airline’s website indicates that Ryanair’s flight from Manchester to Tenerife costs almost £30 less than travelling the same route with Monarch, and £25 less than with bitter rival, easyJet. Tickets for Dublin are on sale at £15.99.

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Excitement, as BMI adds Montpellier route

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Page last updated: 27th Jan 2011 - 12:16 PM

The city of Montpellier, France, is the latest route to be added at Manchester Airport, courtesy of sky-blue airline, bmibaby. The flight, which is the only way of getting there by air from the north, will enter circulation on Saturday July 2 2011, and operate twice a week for the duration of the summer season.

Montpellier, located in the south of France, to the west of Marseille, is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, roughly equivalent to an English county. The city was founded in the tenth century, and developed quickly over the ensuing years. Today, Montpellier is the eighth largest settlement in France.

Known for its Mediterranean climate, Montpellier is a peculiar amalgam of contrasting architectural styles, hilly terrain, and both wide and narrow streets. Popular sights include the Place de la Comédie, arguably the most famous square in the city, the Tour de la Babotte, which is one of two medieval towers in Montpellier, and the impressive gold archway, Port du Peyrou.

Tickets for Manchester-Montpellier are being sold by bmibaby for around £40, one way, with taxes included. The airline’s UK boss, Julian Carr, said that bmibaby was “very excited” about the upcoming launch later this year, while staff at Manchester Airport expressed unreserved “delight” at the addition. Montpellier is Manchester’s sixteenth route to France, joining Avignon, Grenoble, and Brest on the departures board.

Bmibaby’s planes will fly to Méditerranée Airport, located around five miles east of Montpellier, in the town of Mauguio. Cyril Reboul, chairman at the French airport, intimated that local travellers were eager for the opportunity to visit Manchester, “one of the most exciting cities of the UK.”

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Border must be secured, says inspector

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Page last updated: 15th Dec 2010 - 10:12 AM

Earlier this year, security at Manchester Airport had more holes in it than a pound of Swiss cheese, according to an independent inspector for the UK Border Agency (UKBA). The inspector, John Vine, discovered two locations in which new arrivals could “walk out of the airport”, entirely ignoring customs and immigration checkpoints.

The news was a major blow for Manchester Airport, which is widely revered as a champion of novel security techniques, such as the full-body scanner and, more recently, an innovative iris-scanning device. Officials have been left pondering whether or not the security flaws have been exploited in the past, and what heinous villains could be residing illegally in the UK as a consequence of these security slips.

John Vine intimated that the UKBA knew about security problems at Manchester Airport, but had done nothing to remedy the situation. The main issue concerned “a handful” of transfer passengers, who were able to leave the airport without boarding their connecting flight (if they were so inclined). "It was considered serious enough to have been discussed (with the) Home Secretary”, Mr Vine said.

Manchester claims that its border controls were “strengthened immediately” after publication of the report, but the final document reads like a comedy of errors. Facial recognition gates, another of Manchester’s hi-tech toys, broke down five times in just one week, and even trapped a passenger in one particularly humiliating instance.

Inspectors were largely unimpressed with the Ringway hub’s reliance upon new technologies, describing the facial recognition device as unreliable. UKBA representatives in the North of England say that many of John Vine’s observations were valid, and efforts have been made to rectify the issues.

The BBC News website notes that the inspection took place between the 5th and 7th of May 2010, but the results have only just become known.

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Eye-scanner debuts at Manchester

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Page last updated: 26th Nov 2010 - 10:37 AM

Manchester Airport has once again been chosen to trial a new security system, an innovative iris-scanning machine. The device, which is the second system to be trialled at the Ringway hub this year, after the controversial full-body scanner, will be installed at check-in points around the airport.

Iris recognition, developed at Cambridge University by John Daugman, is widely cited as a virtually foolproof method of identifying a person, chiefly because irises are unique to one individual, and the eyes are well protected from damage. Fingerprints, on the other hand, can be altered by manual labour, painted over, or even sanded off with a pumice stone.

Human Recognition Systems, a firm that specialises in biometric technology, and the creator of the iris-scanner, claims that the technology behind the device is very accurate and results so far have been “very positive.” The machine can even scan a person’s eyes when they are moving around the airport.

The scanner seems to be aimed at preventing one crime in particular – crooks who swap (or steal) boarding cards from other travellers, allowing the criminal to assume the identity of their accomplice or victim.

Card-swapping gained some recognition recently, after two men, aged 20 and 55, traded boarding passes at Hong Kong Airport, allowing the younger man to travel to the US disguised as an elderly Caucasian man, complete with silicone rubber mask. However, with iris scanning in place, a person’s name will be permanently associated with a picture of their iris, preventing identity theft.

Mike Fazackerley, product director at Manchester Airport, said of the iris scanner, “Although the device is in its very early stages of development, using this technology for transfer passengers could make Manchester more attractive to airlines in the future.”

Iris scanning is currently voluntary, and all other security steps, including the full-body scanner, remain operational.

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APD threatens business, says Manchester

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Page last updated: 12th Nov 2010 - 01:06 PM

The recent rise in Air Passenger Duty (APD) could have deleterious effects on the UK’s aviation industry, according to Jonathan Bailey, affairs director at Manchester Airports Group (MAG).

APD, an excise duty heaped onto passenger aircraft that meet certain criteria (chiefly, having a weight of greater than ten tonnes, or having the ability to carry more than twenty passengers), is frequently cited as a detriment to the growth of UK airports.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, for example, said that it “does not make much sense” for the UK to “tax the only means of getting on and off the island," while British Airways chief, Willie Walsh, claimed that the APD rise could “dissuade” tourists from visiting the country. “This tax is a disgrace,” the Irishman lamented.

Other companies, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, the British Airports Authority, better known as the BAA, workers union, Unite, and travel firm, ABTA, have also been vocal critics of the APD in recent weeks.

APD is determined by the number of miles between two airports, with long-haul routes invariably incurring a large duty fee. To be more specific, the rise in passenger duty, effective since November 1 2010, will add up to 55% in duty to the price of a ticket to Australia and Singapore, both of which are around 10,000 miles from the UK. The Caribbean and South Africa, approximately 6,000 miles from London, will see APD rise by 50%, whilst passengers travelling to the comparatively nearby Egypt and the west coast of North America, can expect to pay an extra 33% in APD. Perhaps even worse, people travelling between two UK airports will be charged twice, some reward for ‘holidaying at home.’

MAG’s Jonathan Bailey was particularly concerned about the future of Manchester Airport, after a major airline, Malaysia’s AirAsia, dropped its UK campaign in favour of cheaper fees at Paris Orly. The airline was quick to criticise the APD, citing its “adverse impact” on passengers, and the role it plays in making regional airports unattractive to airlines.

The government expects to collect an impressive £3.8bn a year in APD over the next half-decade.

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Scanner trial is a success

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Page last updated: 21st Oct 2010 - 04:06 PM

Trials of the full-body (or ‘naked’) scanner at Manchester Airport have been a runaway success, according to bosses, with only 5% of surveyed travellers taking umbrage with the controversial machines.

Manchester was one of the first hubs in the UK to receive the hi-tech device, alongside Birmingham and Heathrow.

The machine, which creates an image resembling an X-ray, albeit with the flesh still attached to the bones, can peer under a traveller’s clothes, helping security officials find explosives or weapons that have been squirrelled away in a shirt sleeve, or sticky-taped to a limb.

However, regardless of how effective the full-body scanner is at catching terrorists and brigands, the images that are created by the machine have been labelled both ‘pornographic', as the photographs reveal the shape of breasts and genitals, and ‘illegal', with regard to UK child pornography laws.

The former trait caught the attention of UK newspapers in March this year, after two Muslim women refused to enter the device, citing medical and religious objections to the scan. To date, the pair are the only people to have declined to be scanned, according to Manchester Airport chiefs.

Manchester currently has two full-body scanners, but its growing popularity, replacing the traditional ‘pat-down’ search in May 2010, has prompted the purchase of another £80,000 machine, due to be installed at the end of the month. Manchester estimates that around 400,000 people have used the device in the last 12 months.

Airport boss, Andrew Harrison, explained the lure of the naked scanner, stating that passengers "prefer the body scanner because it is significantly quicker" and because it "doesn’t involve being frisked, nor does it require them to remove their coats, jackets, and belts.” He also noted that “being frisked” had been one of the most common complaints at the airport.

Whilst some holidaymakers might still have some reservations about a machine that can see under their clothes, Manchester Airport claims to have gone to “great lengths” to make sure that the images produced by the scanner are kept safe.

After all, coming home from holiday to find your naked body plastered all over the internet is enough to put a downer on anybody’s day.

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Icelandair to link UK and US

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Page last updated: 15th Oct 2010 - 02:26 PM

Icelandair, an airline based at Reykjavik Airport, Iceland, has expanded its global schedules to include more than 200 extra routes, including flights from Manchester, Glasgow, and Heathrow to Washington Dulles Airport in North America.

The carrier has endured a difficult two years. Birkir Hólm Gudnason, Icelandair’s CEO, claims that the recent recession “virtually ended all Icelanders’ overseas travel plans,” forcing the airline to expand into Europe and the US. However, with the Icelandic economy on the mend, and families enjoying more disposable income, the flag-carrying airline is returning to its homeland.

Icelandair will add flights from Reykjavik to an extra 15 cities in Europe and North America from November 2010, including Helsinki in Finland, Amsterdam in Holland, Orlando in Florida, and Boston, Massachusetts, in the USA.

Several months later, on May 17 2011, Icelandair will link Manchester, Glasgow, and Heathrow to Washington via Reykjavik. The route will be operated by a Boeing 757 aircraft, a favourite of British Airways, until September 13 2011.

The wonderfully named, Hjorvar Saeberg Hognason, Icelandair’s chief in the UK, notes that flights from British airports to Reykjavik include a “free stopover” in the Icelandic capital, before departing for the United States. Hjorvar said, “Icelandair is very familiar with the Washington market from nearly 15 years of service. We know that it's an attractive destination for UK travellers."

Icelandair is also offering a Northern Lights-themed holiday in Reykjavik, costing in the region of £269 per person. The flight, which departs from the same UK airports as the Washington route, is available for booking until the end of October 2010.

Combined, the airline's routes for winter 2010-11 make up its largest ever schedule.

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Water and wire ‘bomb’ forces evacuation

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Page last updated: 24th Sep 2010 - 01:29 PM

Holidaymakers at Manchester Airport have endured two emergency evacuations in just four days, causing travel chaos.

On Friday, travellers waiting inside Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport were told to vacate the building after security officials found a suspicious ‘device’ inside a passenger’s luggage. The incident led to a 3-hour delay to all outbound flights, whilst inbound planes were hastily diverted to other airports.

The device, which was discovered by an X-ray machine, and was initially assumed to be a sophisticated explosive, was later revealed to be nothing more harmful than a few bottles of water and a mobile phone charger. However, police noted that the X-ray “looked like something much more sinister,” justifying the evacuation.

Whilst the owner of the bag flouted hand-luggage rules by carrying bottled water, no official charges have been brought against the 30-year-old man.

A second evacuation, this time on Monday evening, occurred when the glass shield on an emergency fire alarm was accidentally broken, triggering the alert. Passengers were ushered out of Terminal 1, and had to wait out in the cold for 20 minutes while security staff dealt with the incident.

The latter evacuation is reminiscent of four separate ‘emergencies’ that occurred at Prestwick Airport late last year. The Ayrshire hub had passengers running for their lives after careless staff left toasters and kettles unattended, triggering the fire alarm. Toasters have since been banned at the Scottish airport.

Speaking about Friday’s evacuation, the boss of Manchester Airport, Andrew Harrison, paid tribute to security workers, as did attending police officer Superintendent Dave Hull, saying that “while thankfully there was no risk to the public, security officers were absolutely right to raise their concerns about the image.”

Around 1,200 people had their travel plans disrupted by the ‘bomb' and 20 flights were delayed. Terminals 2 and 3 remained operational throughout the evening.

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Airport prepares for 'superjumbo' visit

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Page last updated: 3rd Sep 2010 - 12:03 PM

The largest passenger aircraft in the world, the Airbus A380, colloquially known as the ‘superjumbo,’ will make a short stop at Manchester Airport in September, much to the delight of local plane spotters.

Officials declared Manchester ‘ready’ to receive the A380 on Thursday last week, following a fortnight of preparations.

"A lot of hard work and planning has gone into the arrival,” airport boss, Andrew Cornish, explained. “We’re pleased that as an aerodrome we can accept the newest type of aircraft flying today."

Manchester has widened its taxiways to accommodate the A380’s 80m wingspan, and purchased two new fire engines. The airport has also invested in a hi-tech ‘docking system,’ which allows the plane to attach itself to terminal buildings, making loading and unloading swifter.

The improvements were mandatory if the airport wanted to become one of just 17 ‘Class 10’ facilities in the world, capable of handling super large aircraft.

Airport bosses are expecting huge numbers of people to pack its visitor centre from 08.00, when the area opens to the public. The hub will hire extra staff, open its overflow car park, and fill the airport shop with models of the A380, in a bid to keep thousands of enthusiasts happy.

Spectators will see the mammoth plane touch down at 1225 on September 1. It will take off again at 1500.

Despite all the celebrations, the “once in a lifetime event,” to quote Andrew Cornish, could become prosaic in a matter of weeks, when Emirates begins its daily A380 service from Manchester to Dubai.

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Goldtrail folds leaving 16,000 stranded abroad

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Page last updated: 20th Jul 2010 - 04:25 PM

16,000 holidaymakers were said to be stranded abroad after tour operator Goldtrail went into administration on 16 July. Goldtrail specialised in value-for-money holidays to Turkey and Greece.

Soothing noises were being made at the weekend by industry spokesmen, assuring the public that because the operator had been ATOL bonded no-one would have trouble getting home and indeed that most flight arrangements would be unchanged.

The news was not so good, however, for holidaymakers about to depart on a Goldtrail holiday. They would lose their holiday and it could take months for the money to be refunded. Indeed, there are people still waiting for their refund from two years ago when XL Leisure Group went bust.

An estimated 50,000 Goldtrail customers could be affected over the coming months, one of the busiest periods for travel abroad.

As people arrived back at Manchester airport, tales were told of hotels demanding payment again even though the holiday had already been paid for. Some travellers even had their passports confiscated by one hotel manager in Turkey who demanded hundreds of pounds to have them released.

The CAA have advised travellers that the ATOL bond protects against this type of thing happening and has issued a telephone helpline number for passengers caught in this situation.

Despite rumours for several months that Goldtrail were facing financial difficulties, holiday makers were still being allowed to make bookings right up to the eleventh hour, something which Simon Calder of The Independent has criticised, as well as the complexity of claiming a refund.

According to the CAA, Goldtrail is the eleventh travel company to go out of business this year.

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Airport tackles stress - with hanging baskets

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Page last updated: 9th Jul 2010 - 03:00 PM

The words 'allotment,' 'Scalextric,' and 'hanging basket' might seem like random entries from the Oxford English Dictionary, but they all have one thing in common: over the past month, they have all been mentioned in relation to Manchester Airport.

During June, the Ringway site made the headlines with its innovative allotment scheme, whereby employees were given plots of land to grow their own plants and vegetables. The only condition was that they avoided growing anything that would attract birds, such as fruit and large trees.

When Manchester's Escape Lounge was unveiled on the 1 July, business folk were able to discover the airport's 'quirky' side for the first time – the new £1.7m lounge has been fitted with games consoles and a full Scalextric track. Matt Etchells, the airport's project manager, noted that the racing set is popular with travellers of all ages.

Perhaps the most interesting development at Manchester, however, is its £120,000 'airport learning' scheme, which allows staff members to ditch their job for a few hours, and learn a completely unrelated skill, such as photography, a new language, or how to make a hanging basket.

Bosses claim that the initiative has produced a marked decrease in the number of sick days taken by employees, and helped drive customer complaints down. Tracey Thompson, the coordinator of Manchester's Airport Learning Centre, declared herself 'proud' of those who had participated in the horticulture class.

'It gives them another strength to their bow. Instead of just coming to work, they have another interest,' Tracey explained. 'It is all about having a happier and better qualified workforce, and that can only be a good thing.' The next phase of the horticulture class, which recently included the demonstration on hanging baskets, revolves around the humble plant pot.

Hundreds of people have already finished their course, according to the airport, with a further 400 waiting for a chance to participate in one of the nine subjects on offer. Lessons in career planning, deaf awareness, and first aid have already proved popular with airport employees.

More courses are expected throughout the summer.

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Manchester claims ACI award

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Page last updated: 2nd Jul 2010 - 02:36 PM

Manchester has one of the best airports in Europe, according to the Airports Council International (ACI), a self-proclaimed ‘voice’ of the global aviation industry. The airport was honoured alongside Lyon, Malta, and Barcelona at a glitzy ceremony in Milan, Italy.

Despite frequent criticism of its expansion plans, Manchester Airport has always proved popular with travel agents, trade and cargo firms, and anybody with a vested interest in the aviation industry; in fact, the hub has claimed over 90 awards since 1990, including nine ‘best airport’ accolades.

The ACI judges were bowled over by Manchester’s commitment to security, particularly its efforts to test the full-body scanner in a working environment. The airport’s customer service standards and the quality of retail opportunities at the site were also praised. Manchester chief, Geoff Muirhead, claimed the ACI award on 18 June.

‘We want to be one of the world’s best airports and providing high quality customer service is at the heart of our strategy to achieve this goal,’ Mr. Muirhead explained. ‘This award is a real tribute to the hard work of everyone at the airport.’

The ACI awards are divided into a number of categories, according to the size of the airports included in them. Lyon, France, claimed the trophy for the best airport with 5-10m passengers, whilst Barcelona, Spain, snatched the award for the best hub with over 25m visitors a year. Malta was also honoured as the best small airport in Europe.

Manchester featured in the 10-25m category, and was the only airport in the UK to have been nominated for the award.

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Airport offers allotments to staff

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Page last updated: 11th Jun 2010 - 03:47 PM

Green fingered staff at Manchester Airport have pounced on an opportunity to grow their own flowers and vegetables. The airport, which is located in the town of Ringway, Greater Manchester, has given allotments to more than 100 employees, if they promise to avoid growing plants that attract birds.

Birds might seem harmless enough when they are strutting around your back garden, but Britain’s feathered beasts pose a huge danger to aeroplanes – sucked into a jet engine, they can cause serious structural damage. Manchester Airport, as well as regional site, East Midlands, employ ‘bird-scarers’ to protect aircraft from avian pests.

Manchester Airport’s new allotments are located within a few hundred yards of the main runway. The airport has forbidden its urban farmers from cultivating any kind of tree, berries, or fruit to prevent ‘bird-strikes’.

Airport PA, Marija McGuiness, is growing lettuce on her allotment – ‘It’s getting quite competitive. I’m in a team and it’s quite funny really as we’ve started to want our plot to be the best.’ Manchester bosses have employed a wildlife officer to monitor the plots, but staff members are responsible for keeping their own land in order.

Earlier in the year, East Midlands Airport planted hundreds of willow trees, in a bid to become the first UK airport to embrace biomass energy. The trees, whilst not providing much in the way of food for animals, are ideal nesting locations, and the airport has been forced to step up its efforts to keep aeroplanes safe from flocking birds.

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Protest halts Manchester flights

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Page last updated: 28th May 2010 - 12:28 PM

On Tuesday morning, members of the Plane Stupid campaign group broke into Manchester Airport, suspending all flights out of the Ringway site for 20 minutes. The protestors, who endeavour to ‘bring the aviation industry back down to earth’, chained themselves to the wheel of a stationary plane, before being swiftly removed by police.

Plane Stupid is a non-violent network of activists. The group has been responsible for a number of high profile protests in recent years, most of which have been directed at UK airports and the offices of major airlines. Plane Stupid claims to have ‘shut down’ EasyJet, laid siege to Heathrow, and even scaled the roof of the House of Commons.

The group’s protest on the Manchester apron was designed to draw attention to the plight of towns and villages near the airport, as well as giving the obligatory nod to accelerating climate change. Annie McLaughlin, a member of Plane Stupid, explained that local councils were not informing residents that their houses could be demolished.

Manchester Airport made the headlines in December last year, when two listed buildings were destroyed, and a colony of rare animals relocated, to make way for a new 18,000sq metre hangar at the site. The buildings, which were rented out to local families, were located on airport land, however.

Low-flying planes have also been a thorn in Plane Stupid’s side, but the news that Manchester could be allowed to handle twice the number of aircraft movements by 2050 has proved to be highly controversial. The surge in traffic would be facilitated by an expansion to the airport’s World Freight Centre, which was also blockaded by Plane Stupid members on Tuesday.

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Manchester unveils Aruba route

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Page last updated: 7th May 2010 - 02:24 PM

Thomson Airways, one of the largest airlines in the UK, has announced a new weekly flight to Aruba from Manchester Airport. The route will begin on the 7th May, and operate every Friday morning until the 23rd October.

Aruba, which was immortalised in the Beach Boys’ 1988 hit, Kokomo, is an island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean. The island is famed worldwide for its white beaches and tropical climate, despite being relatively arid inland.

Joanna Walding, director of the Aruba tourist board, called the island ‘one of the fastest growing destinations in the Caribbean.’ The town of Oranjestad is particularly popular with British tourists, as is Palm Island, a private resort located just off the coast.

Manchester’s new route is the resumption of a similar service that operated during the 2009 summer season, albeit at a far greater frequency. The airline has also resumed its Aruba route from Gatwick, departing every Saturday from the 1st May. Previously, flights to the Caribbean island were only available via an indirect flight from the US.

Tickets for Thomson’s new route are expected to cost around £389 for a return journey departing on Friday 14th May. The airline is hoping that customers will book through its package holiday company, First Choice, which is offering a seven-day stay in Aruba for £975 per person.

A number of Thomson flights are currently disrupted. Passengers are advised to check the airline’s travel alert website before booking a flight or leaving for the airport.

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Manchester in ‘shocking’ expansion bid

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Page last updated: 19th Mar 2010 - 04:09 PM

In a special document to the Committee on Climate Change, the UK government has predicted a 100% surge in the number of aircraft movements at Manchester Airport. The report, which discusses carbon dioxide emissions over the next four decades, has been labelled ‘shocking’ by anti-expansion campaigners.

Last September, the residents of Wythenshawe, in southern Manchester, filed more than 200 lawsuits against Manchester Airport. The villagers claimed that low-flying planes, which can be loud enough to shatter light bulbs, reduce house prices, and keep some people awake until the early hours.

More recently, in December 2009, airport bosses were forced into a battle with campaigners over the future of several historic townhouses. The buildings, which were located in the Ringway area of Manchester, have since been demolished, and the site cleared pending construction of a new hangar.

The expansion of Manchester Airport remains a controversial topic, but the government is determined to find an airport that can serve as a pressure valve for Heathrow. The London hub has had its expansion plans rubbished by the Conservatives, and recent news suggests that Birmingham is no longer a shoo-in for the position.

If Manchester is allowed to expand as expected, the hub will be capable of handling 450,000 aircraft movements by 2050, up from 213,000 in 2005. Airport bosses are thrilled, but local MPs, residents and campaigners are outraged at the plans, which they claim have been hidden from the public.

Manchester is not expected to overtake Heathrow as Britain’s number one airport, but the loss-making Gatwick and terminally unpopular Stansted could lose out to Manchester over the coming decades. Bosses were quick to deny rumours that expansion would force the construction of a new terminal, however.

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Modest flyers refuse ‘naked scanner’

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Page last updated: 12th Mar 2010 - 02:12 PM

The failed attempt of the 'Christmas Day Bomber' to blow up a plane over Detroit precipitated a major upheaval in airport security protocols, especially for passengers hoping to travel to the United States. Hand luggage was prohibited on certain flights, and a select few airports were handed a new toy – the highly controversial full-body scanner.

Since their introduction in February, these ‘naked’ scanners have become the most polarising aspect of UK aviation, inviting criticism from journalists and modesty campaigners, and enjoying more column inches than a celebrity wedding. The machines are here to stay, however, regardless of their effect on holidaymakers.

Last month, two women were turned away from Manchester Airport after refusing to take part in a full-body scan. The pair was due to board a plane to Islamabad in Pakistan, but a gauntlet of border officers and circuitry put an end to their plans.

According to airport bosses, Manchester’s security guards were simply following orders. They stated that "body scanning is a big change for customers", and confirmed that they have "strict procedures to reassure them that their privacy will be protected".

Manchester has not revealed the names of the women, despite their new-found fame as the first passengers to refuse a full-body scan. One of the pair was a Muslim, who refused on religious grounds. The other claimed a health issue that was incompatible with the scanners.

Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester are the only airports to use full-body scanners, but Gordon Brown hopes to introduce the machines to all major airports within the next few months.

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Smile for the camera – or else

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Page last updated: 5th Feb 2010 - 02:34 PM

Manchester Airport has introduced compulsory full-body scanning for ‘certain passengers’ in a bid to control the flow of dangerous terrorists onto British planes. Bosses have warned that refusal is not an option for anybody who wishes to fly.

The ‘naked scanner’ is not a popular piece of equipment. Critics have noted that the machine produces imagery that violates child pornography laws, and an attempt to make under-eighteens exempt from the scan was recently thrown out by the Government.

Further complaints include the sensitivity of the hardware – remarkably low, considering the hi-tech nature of global terrorism. The scanner cannot detect liquids or chemicals, both of which are used in homemade bombs.

Security staff seized a suitcase of white powder at Manchester last week, prompting the question – would a scanner have been able to detect the mysterious substance, and potentially save the lives of hundreds of travellers? Many experts say no.

The issue that continues to bother the cabinet concerns the identity of the passengers selected for full-body scanning. Civil rights campaigners fear that people from the Middle East and Africa could be unfairly targeted as potential terrorists, just because of their religion, or the way that they choose to dress.

Despite the accusations, the Government sees selective screening or ‘racial profiling’ as a very real alternative to traditional airport security measures. People who refuse to be scanned, due to modesty, for example, will be treated as potentially dangerous, and will be turned away from flights.

Heathrow and Birmingham airports join Manchester as pioneers of full-body scanning. The former has also begun compulsory screening, whilst the latter is due to receive a big parcel of scanners over the coming month.

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Trouble, as mysterious powder is seized

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Page last updated: 29th Jan 2010 - 03:43 PM

A ‘chemical incident’ caused a stir at Manchester Airport earlier this week, after a mysterious white powder was found in the hand luggage of a passenger. Tests have yet to determine the identity of the substance, but officials are confident that the powder poses no risk to aircraft or travellers.

The passenger, a man in his late twenties, was catching a plane from Manchester to Heathrow, when security staff spotted the suspicious chemical in his carry-on bag. The airport informed the local police, who sent a bomb squad to the site.

Manchester’s Terminal 3 was closed for six hours while officers combed the aisles and armchairs for evidence of an explosive threat, but came up empty handed. The terminal was reopened at 7pm, and the passenger released without charge.

Experts continue to puzzle over the nature of the white powder. Cocaine, gunpowder, and even freeze-dried chemicals can be carried in powder form, but scientists have found no correlation with known contraband. The mysterious substance was also found in the passenger’s main suitcase.

Airport bosses reported minimal disruption, amounting to a few flight delays only.

Manchester police have since apologised for the trouble – "The powder was unidentified, so we had to take every precaution to protect the safety of passengers at the airport. Public safety is our primary concern.”

Visitors to the Manchester Evening News website have speculated that the passenger might have been testing the sensitivity of airport security, especially as the alert came just days after the Home Office raised the terror threat level from ‘substantial’, to ‘severe’.

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New law for 'laser louts'

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Page last updated: 15th Jan 2010 - 02:30 PM

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has introduced a new law that could help prosecute people who shine high-powered lasers at aircraft. The amendment stipulates that anybody caught ‘shining a light at an aircraft’ can be charged with reckless endangerment.

Dubbed ‘laser louts’ by the British press, these brigands are anonymous enemies of modern aviation, using bright lights to dazzle the pilots of helicopters and planes. UK airports report a 1,700% increase in the phenomenon since 2008 – a worrying statistic.

Laser pointers are readily available on the internet, often selling for just £20. With a maximum range of almost 2km, the user can pester aircraft with impunity, without giving his or her appearance away to video cameras.

Manchester Airport claimed 52 laser incidents in 2009 alone, compared to 42 in Glasgow, 40 in Birmingham, and 39 at Leeds Bradford. Over 700 separate incidents were reported last year.

Even police helicopters have been targeted, but with no obvious way to detect laser louts, even the airborne authorities are susceptible to this kind of obstruction.

The CAA is currently working on a ‘laser-recognition’ device, capable of recording laser beams, said to be as unique and varied as the human fingerprint. Jail sentences and community service orders have also been earmarked for laser crooks.

Rogue laser beams have not caused any accidents to date, but an incident in Plymouth last year resulted in a plane having to abort its landing. The plane and its crew eventually landed safely.

The BBC offers a short video on its website, highlighting the dangers that laser pens pose to aircraft; in this case, a police helicopter.

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Snow forces closure

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Page last updated: 7th Jan 2010 - 02:01 PM

Earlier this week, Manchester Airport bosses were forced to concede to the wintry conditions and suspend all flights from the Ringway site, after heavy snowfall made runways icy and dangerous.

Just about everywhere has seen snow this week, from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, all the way down to London and the southeast. Hundreds of schools are closed. Thousands of motorists are stuck on the motorways, and many UK airports are still trying to sweep the snow from their planes.

Manchester and Leeds Bradford remained closed until midday, but despite a few delays, the two airports are now running as normal. Liverpool John Lennon added to its wintry woes with ten cancellations, whilst Blackpool Airport has suspended all flights until further notice.

Forecasters are warning of the worst British winter in over a century, with temperatures expected to drop to an impressive -10 in hilly and mountainous regions, such as Northern England and Scotland.

Emergency services have requested that we avoid calling 999 apart from in extreme emergencies where someone is dead or dying, or if we have witnessed a crime in progress. Four major motorways, including the M6 and the M62, are all facing severe disruption, making rescue difficult.

The Manchester Airport website reads, “The airport has reopened as of 1pm and arrivals have started to land. The worst of the weather appears to have passed, but we expect a slow departure rate.” Passengers are advised to check with their airline for the particulars of their flight.

With heavy snow expected to continue well into the weekend, British airports are braced for another cold, difficult month. Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Gatwick airports have also reported delays.

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New hangar squashes family homes

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Page last updated: 4th Dec 2009 - 03:18 PM

Manchester Airport has incurred the wrath of Cheshire campaigners, after a plan to demolish two historic houses became known. Officials want to build a new hangar on the cleared site, but pressure groups are seeking court action to prevent the development. Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport (SEMA), a newly formed protest group, succumbed to an unfavourable 5:4 vote by local councillors last week, despite an impromptu rally outside the town hall gates.

Only a judge can overturn the ruling now, much to the dismay of Peter Johnson, a resident in one of the doomed properties. Mr. Johnson has issued a warning to Manchester, opposing the demolition. “We have fought long and hard to stop our homes from being demolished and we won't give up the fight just yet.” A colony of great-crested newts could also be destroyed by construction crews, despite being protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.

A nearby townhouse was recently spared the bulldozer, prolonging four centuries of history, but the destruction of the remaining buildings is almost inevitable. When complete, the 18,000 sq. metre hangar will occupy a space between Hasty and Runger Lanes. Manchester Airport believes that the expansion is sustainable and will have no adverse effects on the local environment.

Eco-warriors are not convinced, believing that noise pollution could rise beyond acceptable levels. Liberal Democrat Councillor, Martin Eakins, has slammed the local council for its part in approving the hangar development, suggesting that planners were simply ignorant of the plight of local residents.

Visitors to the Manchester Evening News website were less sympathetic to Hasty Lane residents, as the two homes in question are rented from, and located within the limits of, Manchester Airport. Whilst it might be a little mean to demolish somebody’s house, the airport has a legal entitlement to modify buildings on its soil, providing that property laws are not broken.

Of course, the battle between Manchester Airport and the dethroned Hasty Lane residents could be about something else altogether – sufficient compensation.

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Revamp for tumbledown tower

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Page last updated: 20th Nov 2009 - 04:27 PM

Officials at Manchester Airport have unveiled plans to open the first ever restaurant in a control tower. Manchester has asked all willing investors to come forward, promising enough floor space for 100 diners, and a wealth of scenic views, cast out over the busy airport and the Cheshire countryside beyond. The tower, which has stood abandoned since the summer, could also support a small shopping arcade and reception area.

In July, a £50m redesign of Terminal One was unveiled to the public. The project saw the expansion of the airport’s retail and catering areas and alterations to the border, helping passengers get through the terminal as quickly as possible. The new, improved terminal is capable of handling 11m passengers a year, up from 2.5m in 2008.

Unfortunately, the control tower did not factor into the renovation plans, and the building was left to rot beside the runway. Its unique shape and location drew the attentions of local businesses, however, and the airport has been in consultation with investors ever since.

Andrew Harrison, director at the airport, was eager to attract as many people as possible to Manchester Airport. He said that they were hoping that the control tower would become "a venue to rival some of the city centre’s most sophisticated venues", adding that the intention is to "produce an experience that far exceeds all current expectations of a great bar”.

Any prospective development would help Manchester offset the cost of the summer refurbishment. Milligan Retail, a local property specialist, has been hired to oversee the venture.

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Manchester trials ‘naked scanner’

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Page last updated: 15th Oct 2009 - 02:46 PM

Manchester Airport is to trial a new electromagnetic scanner, capable of seeing through travellers' clothes.

Costing in the region of £80,000, the machine is a world away from the X-ray Spex that graced the back page of US comic books in the sixties and seventies, yet the premise remains the same – x-rays penetrate a person’s clothes, revealing concealed items beneath.

Sounds innocent enough, but the scanner also produces a black and white image of a person’s genitals and breasts, including any implants. Authorities maintain that the pictures are not pornographic, and have promised to delete all images immediately.

The scanner has enjoyed successful trials at Heathrow Airport, where it has been based for the past four years.

Security company, Rapiscan, manufacturer and pioneer of x-ray scanners, was full of praise for the new machine: “The x-rays are well suited for seeing objects just below a surface. It has the ability to detect a wide range of threats: metal, explosive, plastic or ceramic.”

The scanner does not penetrate the surface of the skin, but travellers have voiced concerns about indecency and radiation levels. Visitors to the BBC website were equally bemused, referring to the scanner as a “real invasion of our last privacies,” and an “absolute abuse of power.”

Manchester was quick to point out that the machine is completely safe, allowing visitors to take thousands of scans a year. The scanner will remain a voluntary procedure until the end of the year, when the Department for Transport will vote to install the scanners throughout the country, permanently.

For more information about the x-ray scanner, consider watching this video on the Telegraph website.

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Podium beckons for Manchester Airport

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Page last updated: 1st Oct 2009 - 01:01 PM

Manchester Airport is the first airport to be nominated for a National Customer Service Award, an accolade that rewards institutions for their commitment to customer care.

The airport could claim the Best Use of Technology Award, Customer Service Team of the Year Award, and an award for young professionals, earmarked for employee, Katy Gough.

Katy created an information booklet for autistic passengers, helping to boost Manchester’s standing as a disabled-friendly airport. Sarah Barrett, the head of customer services at Manchester, was delighted.

The airport was a debutant, having entered the competition for the first time this year. Officials will face a panel of judges in October, collecting any awards in December, just in time for the New Year.

In similar news, Manchester Airport was declared the Airport of the Year at the Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) Awards, an enviable achievement.

The facility fought off stiff competition from fellow airports, Birmingham and London-Luton, but a recent £80m renovation of Manchester’s two terminals proved a valuable trump card.

"We are extremely proud to have secured such a highly acclaimed award. It is a real tribute to the efforts of the 19,000 people who work at Manchester Airport," Andrew Cornish, managing director at the site, explained.

The TTG Awards pit UK airports against each other in a number of fields – customer service, trade relations, and commitment to their local communities, among others.

Manchester’s dedication to new scanning and security technology pleased the judges in both competitions, surpassing the efforts of Edinburgh, Heathrow, and Birmingham airports by a large margin.

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Solicitors march on Manchester

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Page last updated: 25th Sep 2009 - 12:48 PM

Angry householders have filed over two hundred lawsuits against Manchester Airport, claiming that low-flying planes have destroyed the local property market, slashing thousands from house prices, and filling the air with oily smog.

Residents of Wythenshawe, a large housing estate in southern Manchester, have made compensation claims amounting to £9m over the last six years, each one in response to the opening of a second runway at the airport.

The estate, widely known for its portrayal in the Channel 4 sitcom, ‘’Shameless’’, is home to a number of luxury bungalows, some of which have lost more than a quarter of their original value.

Manchester’s second runway is no stranger to controversy. In 1999, before the airport was officially opened, an eco-warrior named ‘Swampy’ staged an underground protest to draw attention to the plight of two National Trust forests near the runway.

However futile, Swampy’s spirited defence of Mother Nature drew the admiration of eco-warriors up and down the country. Authorities were not amused, and in October, all the remaining protesters were flushed out, plucked from the trees and sent home.

Since then, low-flying planes have caused more than headaches for Wythenshawe resident, Chris O'Donovan – “the noise is incredible. The reverberations can break light bulbs in the house. Whenever an aircraft takes off we get an appalling smell of aviation fuel. You can actually feel it in the back of your throat.”

Manchester Airport has disputed the case, and has warned that it will not be badgered into doling out hefty compensation packages. The Lands Tribunal (a legal entity charged with resolving disputes over land) will oversee any prospective lawsuits.

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Airport unfazed by strike action

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Page last updated: 26th Aug 2009 - 01:22 PM

Bosses at Manchester Airport have insisted that industrial action over the August bank holiday weekend will not affect regular airport operations. The strike, involving some three hundred staff members, is centred on Swiss handling company, Swissport.

According to the strikers, Swissport has reneged on a contract promising a 2.75% pay increase to all ground and apron staff. The agreement, which was struck last August, tied Swissport to a two-year pay deal, and helped to dissolve another strike threat.

Britain’s General Union (GMB) and Unite, the largest union in the UK, are in full support of the strike. Gatwick and Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle, and Birmingham are also anticipating major disruption over the bank holiday weekend.

Swissport was quick to point out that just forty staff members (10% of its total UK workforce) were responsible for the strike.

The firm’s CEO, Mark Faulkner, was unsympathetic: “a strike at this time will only inconvenience the travelling public and do nothing to safeguard the jobs of our staff or the prosperity of our business.”

Mr. Faulkner went on to criticise the conduct of GMB and Unite, branding them ignorant to the damage that industrial action causes to public services. The bank holiday strike is designed to cause maximum disruption to holidaymakers.

The Swissport strike falls in the shadow of industrial action at Liverpool John Lennon – a dispute over jobs that has yet to find a solution. Both airports have asked their customers to be prepared for delays.

Swissport employees will work to rule from the 29th - 31st August. A strike involving apron staff will take place from 5am on the 31st August to 12:45pm on the 1st September.

At Gatwick and Stansted, a 24 hour strike is expected to take place on the 25th, on the 29th, and on bank holiday Monday.

Swissport has since refused to be baited by “militant behaviour.”

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Ryanair to cut Manchester flights

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Page last updated: 20th Aug 2009 - 03:25 PM

Ryanair announced earlier this summer that it would be reducing its winter flights from both Stansted and Dublin due, in part at least, to a dispute over airport charges. Now the latest airport to bear the brunt of Michael O’Leary’s reluctance to pay up is Manchester, as the budget airline has just announced its intention to cut nine of the ten routes operated from the airport.

A spokesman for Manchester airport has expressed dismay at the move and pointed out that taxes are as low as £3 per passenger. Ryanair, on the other hand, is criticising the airport’s decision, saying they obviously prefer to “preserve their high cost base rather than grow”.

Ryanair had offered 28 extra flights per week from Manchester, which would have resulted in 400,000 extra passengers a year and 400 new jobs, but the airport was not willing to reduce its charges.

The changes will be put into effect from 1st Oct and will affect the following routes:

  • Barcelona
  • Bremen
  • Brussels (Charleroi)
  • Cagliari
  • Dusseldorf (Weeze)
  • Frankfurt (Hahn)
  • Marseille
  • Milan (Bergamo)
  • Shannon

Passengers booked to travel on these flights will be emailed by Ryanair and will be given the option of a refund or flying from a different airport such as Liverpool, East Midlands or Leeds Bradford which is Ryanair’s newest base. According to Manchester airport, passengers will still be able to fly from the airport to the majority of the destinations affected using different carriers.

The cuts mean that Manchester will lose 44 flights a week and 60,000 passengers a year, with the result that around 600 local jobs will be lost.

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Manchester could use new security scanner

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Page last updated: 15th Jun 2009 - 02:45 PM

Since the planned attack on planes about to embark on flights across the Atlantic from Heathrow in 2006, UK airports have been very strict when it comes to passengers carrying any liquids onboard flights. The rules currently say that no more than 100ml of any liquid can be carried onto planes. Anything such as baby milk and medicine has to be in a suitable container and checked beforehand. This has led to passengers having to either drink their liquids before they board, or dump them entirely. Either way it has led to hours of queuing and a security system in desperate need of a burst of speed.

Thank heavens technology has now caught up. Currently on trial at Manchester airport is the very latest in bag-scanning equipment, which is proving to possess the potential to reduce those queues by hours. For the last three months a new and improved X-ray machine has been buzzing all day and night. This new model, known as RTT Scanners, has been designed in Surrey by Rapiscan Systems and is a 3D version of the existing CT scanners. The image we all associate with these X-Ray scanners is now in three dimensions and has the capability to measure the exact weight of all the liquids that pass under it, telling the security staff exactly what substance is inside and whether it’s safe or not.

Each type of liquid comes up on the scanner as a different colour. It has allowed the staff at Manchester to check over five times as many bags per hour. Indeed the RTT can safely check 1800 bags in a single hour. However, with rumours that the authorities may be relaxing the current vigorous checking at some point in the future, they will have to be put in use across the UK as quickly as possible, if Rapiscan are going to recover their investment.

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Plans for Manchester airport to become a mini city

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Page last updated: 27th Mar 2009 - 02:40 PM

Plans to turn Manchester airport into a “mini city” have recently been revealed. The Manchester Airport Group Developments Ltd announced at a property convention in Cannes that the purchase of 30 acres of land from the Burford Group had been agreed at a cost in excess of £15 million. This land purchase was described as the “last piece in the jigsaw” for the ambitious plans to become a reality.

The Airport City will provide, in combination with the council-owned Manchester Business Park, all manner of facilities on the two million square feet site including retail, leisure and entertainment outlets, manufacturing and commercial premises, hotel and conference facilities, as well as increased runway capacity and extended terminals and cargo facilities.

Approximately five thousand jobs are likely to be created over the next ten to fifteen years which will come as welcome news as nationwide unemployment tips the 2 million mark.

The chief executive of Manchester City Council has brushed aside concerns that this is perhaps not the best of times to be contemplating such a development, saying that the current downturn in passenger numbers due to the economic situation is a “blip” and that it is imperative to look to the future. Passenger numbers at Manchester are predicted to rise to 50 million by 2030.

Planners have been looking at Barcelona, Amsterdam and Copenhagen airports as possible blueprints for the new Airport City at Manchester.

The plans will come as bad news for SEMA, a group which campaigns to stop expansion at the airport on environmental grounds.

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Top airport hotel saved in Last Minute deal

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Page last updated: 23rd Jan 2009 - 02:57 PM

A top hotel at Manchester airport has been saved from going into administration at the last minute by a new deal. The luxury hotel, Etrop Grange, has been based at the airport for a number of years and hosted thousands of business people and celebrities. It will be one of 18 hotels under the Folio brand bought out by Mulborn Ltd, although it will continue to operate under its existing name.

The 100 staff members of the hotel breathed a sigh of relief as the deal was reached. General Manager of Etrop Grange, John O’Reilly said “it is very much business as usual as far as we are concerned”.

The deal is good news amidst a wave of businesses and retailers going into administration as the country heads deeper into an economic recession. Clothing retailer Morgan went into administration at the end of December and on Christmas Eve, music and games company, Zavvi followed the same route. At the end of November Southampton’s historic Dolphin hotel demonstrated that hotels are no longer safe as it too brought administrators in to try and sell the business.

Etrop Grange joined other Folio hotels around the country who were celebrating the news. In total 1200 jobs were saved and the new company is forecasting a £48 million pound turnover in its first year of trading. The sales director said that “all existing bookings will be honoured”. Another company, Bespoke Hotels will manage a further thirteen hotels which were also part of the Folio brand.

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Man charged £900 at Manchester Airport car park

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Page last updated: 23rd Jan 2009 - 02:55 PM

A man was charged just under £900 to park his car at a Manchester Airport car park for two weeks whilst on holiday. Mr Carr, aged 28, who works for Lancashire City Council, was holidaying in Barbados with his family and he didn’t discover the mistake until he was back at his home. He had booked his parking space two weeks beforehand, paying a discount rate of £51.99 under a super saver deal. He was later horrified to discover the company had taken an additional £842.90 from his account.

Mr Carr phoned the company and a telephone operator said he would return the call in ten days once he had discovered what the problem was. At that stage Mr Carr understood that an investigation would be carried out, not that the money would be refunded. He faced the prospect of going into overdraft once other bills went out of his account. He said “it would have been better if I had paid on a credit card but this money has gone from my current account. At first I thought it had been online fraudsters”.

Had he gone into overdraft with his current account he would have faced a £60 charge per day. However, Mr Carr then phoned the Manchester Evening News who intervened. The money was then returned to his account and the original fee waived as a gesture of good will.

A spokesman said the huge over-charge was due to a “one-off system error which calculated the car parking charge incorrectly.”

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Russian pilots breach alcohol limits at Manchester

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Page last updated: 14th Nov 2008 - 10:07 AM

Two Russian pilots working for the national carrier, Aeroflot, were fined last week for having drunk excessive alcohol the night before they were due to fly a plane back to Moscow from Manchester airport.

Captain Mikhail Danilstsev, aged 47, and co-pilot Andrey Lyubimov, aged 56, were arrested by police at the airport after a member of the airline staff smelt alcohol on their breath. She contacted her supervisor who in turn contacted the police in order that a breathalyser test could be carried out. Both tests were positive and revealed alcohol limits of 27 mg in 100 mls of blood, significantly greater than the permissible 20mg.

The men claimed that they had both drunk four pints of beer the previous evening but had judged the beer to be significantly less potent than the beer they drink in Russia. They therefore felt that they would be under the limit for the flight which was scheduled to leave at 4am the next day.

Admittedly the plane would not have been carrying any passengers since it was a “ferry flight” but this in no way diminished the culpability of the pilots who, the judge pointed out, could easily have compromised the safety of passengers on other flights.

In their defence, the men said that they had not anticipated that the flight would have taken off on time but acknowledged that they had broken the law both in this country and in Russia and also the company policy, which bans the drinking of alcohol in the 24 hours prior to flying. They were fined £2500 each, ordered to pay costs, and have been sacked by Aeroflot.

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Manchester Airport expansion causes controversy

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Page last updated: 6th Nov 2008 - 02:51 PM

The Manchester Evening News has described plans drawn up by Manchester Airport to destroy a 400-year-old cottage as “cultural barbarism”. The airport is keen to make space for two large cargo warehouses and it hopes to be given permission to destroy Rose Cottage, a Grade II-listed building. The Wythenshawe area committee rejected the airport’s proposal but the plans are now going to be considered by town hall planners.

The planned extension to the airport’s freight terminal, estimated to be costing approximately £20 million, will be built on land near Runger Lane. The airport also wants to demolish several other historical properties located within close proximity of Rose Cottage. Manchester Airport believes that cargo making use of its World Freight Centre will increase from just over 165,000 tonnes to over 270,000 tonnes by the end of 2015. Furthermore, it has stated that the two new cargo units will create approximately 60 jobs.

Although the airport has made it clear that they intend on saving and subsequently storing all the historical features of the cottages and properties involved in the proposal, local residents have been quick to condemn the plans. These residents, along with local councillors and historians, have been upset further by news that a natural pond and numerous mature trees will probably be demolished along with the buildings.

Manchester Airport is the largest airport in the United Kingdom outside of London. It was officially opened in 1938 and last year it handled a total of 22,112,625 passengers.

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Face scanning machines in UK airports take off

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Page last updated: 27th Aug 2008 - 02:17 PM

Once again, the world of science fiction merges into that of the real world and this time it’s immigration control at one of the busiest UK airports that is bringing us into the 21st Century. Where we once saw the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger having his faced scanned to identify him in films, now passengers passing through passport control will have their faces scanned for real and then have that image matched with the one on their passport.

The sheer number of people flying into the UK means there are often long queues but this new scanning system hopes to cut the checking process in half. The current time for ‘manual’ checks is just over 20 seconds but, with the two scanning machines being piloted at Manchester City Airport, it’s cut down to around 13 seconds, which may not seem like a lot but certainly adds up at peak times.

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is backing the idea but there have been a few criticisms voiced already. A member of the anti big brother set, Guy Herbert, the general secretary of No2ID has raised concerns over the accuracy of the recognition. His concerns come at a time when there have been serious shake ups with passports and the news that by 2016 all UK residents will have to possess a biometric passport, which according to specialist hackers, can be cloned in an hour.

Heathrow has postponed the new finger-printing checks using the same passport because of security concerns. It seems science fiction might be remaining that way for the moment.

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Manchester-bound "flight from hell"

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Page last updated: 20th Aug 2008 - 02:27 PM

If your holiday plans this summer include a flight with budget carrier Jet2, it is probably best to look away now. The Yorkshire based leisure airline, which until 2006 operated out of Bournemouth, has had to issue an apology to furious passengers for the "flight from hell" which they endured at the beginning of Aug.

Passengers due to fly home from Rome Fiumicino airport were already feeling disgruntled when they boarded the plane three hours later than expected. They then had to sit on board in sweltering temperatures of over thirty degrees for three hours, during which time they were served just one complimentary soft drink. The plane was then unloaded and passengers sat in the terminal building for another two and a half hours before receiving the bad news that they would not be flying back to Manchester that night since the flight had now been cancelled. The airline booked overnight accommodation in local hotels but what they were less successful in doing was arranging transport, with some passengers having to foot taxi bills of £80 because there was simply no room for passengers and their luggage on the transport provided by Jet2.

Matters in the transport department were no better the next morning, with a coach, which was already half full, turning up to ferry 140 passengers to the airport for their flight home. One passenger described the free-for-all which ensued, with women and children being pushed off the bus.

A spokesman for the airline has explained that the root cause of the debacle was a small technical fault and that the situation was exacerbated by the fact that Jet2 has no ground staff at Rome. He has promised an investigation to ensure that better service will be provided the next time there is an incident of this sort. One rather suspects, however, that for many of the passengers there simply will be no next time with Jet2!

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Collision at Manchester Airport

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Page last updated: 20th Aug 2008 - 02:11 PM

An investigation is under way to discover why a minor collision between two aircraft happened last week at Manchester airport. A Futura Boeing 737 bound for Tenerife hit a Lufthansa Airbus A320 headed for Frankfurt. Both planes were due to take off within minutes of each other from Terminal 1.

Almost three hundred passengers were on board the planes but fortunately no-one was hurt and, after the aircraft had been inspected by the fire services, the passengers were able to disembark in the normal way, hoping to be able to get on with their holidays later in the day.

The collision happened between the wing tip of the Futura plane and the tail of the Lufthansa aircraft and both ended up with structural damage which will cost millions to repair. Although costly in terms of economics, it seems that airport officials were relatively unconcerned by the collision, describing it as “a fairly minor incident”.

The airport is said to be arranged in such a way that this sort of incident should not have happened and it is hoped that the investigation will get to the bottom of the cause quickly. There have been reports that one of the pilots was instructed not to proceed but ignored the warning.

A similar incident happened at Manchester in 2004, again when both planes were getting ready for take-off. David Learmount of Air Transport Intelligence said that incidents of planes clipping each other at airports were relatively common, although injuries as a result are thankfully extremely rare.

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Workers at Manchester Airport cancel strike

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Page last updated: 11th Aug 2008 - 03:10 PM

Workers at Manchester Airport cancelled a strike this month after they were offered a pay rise just before the strike was due.

Cleaners at the airport had previously been offered a 2% pay rise but rejected the increase, vowing to strike from 17th July through to 6am on 20th July. But at the eleventh hour airport employers Initial Air Services announced a 3.5% pay rise which 78% of union members accepted.

Spokeswoman for union group Unite explained that the airport employees had wanted to avoid taking industrial action and were glad when a resolution was offered. She said: “We want to send a clear message to contractors at Manchester Airport: if they choose to impose a non-negotiated pay deal, then we will retaliate.”

Although cleaners at Manchester Airport did go into work on 17th July, thousands of local authority and public sector employees took industrial action causing disruption across the country. In Manchester more than 84 schools were forced to close after cleaning staff, teaching assistants and midday staff staged a walkout and many of its libraries, museums, town halls and leisure centres were also shut.

With 750,000 employees protesting, the strike was hailed as the biggest walkout since the General Strike in 1926. According to Jack Dromey, national organiser of the Transport and General Workers Union, the strike reflected a general mood of dissatisfaction with poor pay and hoped it would send a powerful message to local councillors, adding: “Our members want fair pay, decent treatment and, quite simply, respect.”

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Guns in the headlines

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Page last updated: 1st Aug 2008 - 03:19 PM

For any anxious flyers about to head off on holiday, it is not good news that guns and air travel have hit the headlines so much recently. Despite stringent security measures at airports, it seems that it is still possible to get a gun (replica or the real thing) on board a plane.

A passenger about to fly from Manchester to Bangladesh on an Emirates flight was arrested last week after a gun was discovered in his suitcase. Even more worrying for those concerned with the threat of terrorism is the fact that the 44 year old has a PhD in chemistry. He has since been remanded in custody.

A few days later, a judge at Preston Crown Court told a former bank manager that he was very lucky to be escaping a prison sentence. Karl Crookall had brought a replica F-92 pistol from Gerona, where he had bought it, into Blackpool airport after a holiday with his wife and young son last year. An x-ray of his luggage had revealed the pistol, complete with 49 rounds of blank ammunition. Somewhat alarmingly, Crookall on being interviewed by police, admitted to having an obsession with knives and firearms following an accident which left him with a neurological condition. He has given up his gun licence and received a suspended prison sentence of 28 days.

A man from Aberdeen discovered last week that even joking about possessing a fire arm on a flight can have serious consequences. He had told the steward on a plane about to take off from Edinburgh to Egypt in April that he had a gun. He has been charged with causing a breach of the peace and the sentence will be announced next month, following background reports being obtained.

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Airbus fly-by impresses plane spotters at Manchester Airport

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Page last updated: 23rd Jul 2008 - 04:27 PM

An Airbus fly-by wowed spectators last week when the plane made a brief but impressive visit to Manchester, flying over the skies above Manchester International Airport.

The Airbus A380 is the world’s largest airliner with 555 seats and a wingspan almost as wide as a football pitch. It is a double decker aircraft with four Rolls Royce engines and fifty per cent more floor space than the Boeing 747-400, the world’s second largest airliner.

The aircraft made its fly-by at 1.30 pm on Sunday afternoon, kick-starting the airport’s 70th birthday year and putting hundreds of plane spotters in a celebratory mood. It flew to about 50 ft of the runway as if coming into land before re-gaining height, dipping its wings, and flying off towards Liverpool where it flew by John Lennon Airport, and along the River Mersey. The visit was arranged as a thank-you to the Merseyside employees who worked on the jet. Steven Clarke, a plane spotter from Reddish, said he was surprised by how quiet the airliner was, adding, “That was amazing, I’ve been waiting for ages to see one… hopefully one day I’ll get to be a passenger in one.”

There have been 160 orders for the impressive airliner, including twelve from BA, to come into service in the near future. It is expected that the aircraft will be travelling from Manchester in about eighteen months' time, when facilities are put in place to accommodate the Airbus. Until then passengers will have to fly with Singapore Airlines, who already have two of the magnificent airliners in service, if they want to experience travelling on the Airbus.

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Manchester wins Best Airport award

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Page last updated: 10th Jul 2008 - 02:35 PM

Manchester Airport received some excellent news last week when they were named Best Airport for 2008 in the 10 to 25 million passenger category. This much coveted award was given by the Airports Council International and was the only award to be won by a UK airport.

Particular points singled out for praise by the judges were the airport’s success in attracting new airlines, the commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, its sponsorship of the arts, and the excellent relations with the local community.

Needless to say, Manchester Airport’s MD, Andrew Cornish, was delighted with the award, particularly in light of some of the stiff competition from other European airports. He expressed his pleasure that the efforts of all the staff at the airport in making life “as easy and hassle-free” for its customers had been recognised.

The good news came just two days after a stark warning was given that Manchester Airport must “grow or die”. Dr John Kasarda from the University of North Carolina gave the warning at the Innovation Manchester event. He said that the city’s leaders must worry less about the airport’s carbon footprint and more about ensuring that the airport becomes the focal point for the region’s growth.

Manchester Airport, which last week celebrated its 70th anniversary, is now the largest airport outside London and fourth largest in the whole of the UK. Passenger numbers currently stand at 22 million a year. Seventy years ago the 8,000 passengers a year had a choice of twelve destinations from Manchester. Nowadays the airport serves 220 destinations across the globe, the greatest number of any UK airport.

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Manchester Airport opens new security area

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Page last updated: 12th Jun 2008 - 02:47 PM

Clearing security at any airport can be a bit of a nightmare but Manchester was recently declared by travellers as one of the worst in the UK. However, with the opening of a new £10 million security area at Terminal 1, the queues and hassle could be things of the past.

It may sound like something from Big Brother, but psychologists have been studying the body language and oral communication of passengers, from the minute they arrive at the airport to the time they board the plane, to assess the variations in their mental state. Not surprisingly, they discovered that clearing security is the most stressful experience and something that most of us want to get through as quickly as possible. With this in mind, the airport has decided to reduce landside facilities and put all their new investment into improving facilities airside, recognising that few of us are able to relax before we have cleared security. Having jumped through the security hoops, passengers will now be able to enjoy shopping, eating and drinking in a new multi-million pound environment, one of the largest in the UK.

As far as security itself is concerned, £2.2 million has been spent on new X-ray machines which can take 3D colour images of the contents of passengers' hand luggage. New vapour-sniffing machines have been installed to check for unauthorized liquids – a headache for most airports, following the restrictions imposed in Aug 2006. Ten security lanes are currently open, with four more set to open next month, in time for the summer rush. Extra staff have been taken on, existing staff have had extra training in the new machinery and the security hall itself has been specially designed to induce a relaxed state of mind in passengers.

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New planes at Manchester

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Page last updated: 12th Jun 2008 - 02:43 PM

The head of the International Air Transport Association described the service levels seen at Heathrow Airport this year as a “national embarrassment”. Set against this bad news is the optimistic feeling emerging from Manchester Airport since the announcement that the all-new Boeing 737-900 will soon be departing from their runways.

As of May 2008, XL Airways is offering flights on this new aircraft, which is bigger and better than any of its Boeing siblings. It is more attractive, holds dozens more passengers and, believe it or not, is even better for the environment. During an age in which the aviation industry is suffering from an oil crisis and generally being closely monitored, it is a nice surprise to see that the new Boeing uses up to 2.5% less fuel per passenger per flight.

The new planes provide another option for passengers travelling to some of the most popular holiday destinations, such as Spain and Tenerife. During the seven years that Manchester and XL Airways have been working together, they have made great advances in the aviation industry and introducing the new models seemed a logical step for them to take. XL.com, the larger company to AL Airways, has certainly earned its stripes and was named the world’s leading charter airline in 2007.

If the service is a success, plans will be put in place to bring the new planes to London Gatwick by the end of 2009. If you want to see the new Boeing 737-900 in action then have a look here.

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Chief of Manchester Airport considers buying Gatwick

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Page last updated: 9th May 2008 - 01:13 PM

It has been announced today that the Chief Executive of the Manchester Airport Group is considering a partial buyout of Gatwick Airport from airport operator BAA. The BAA may be forced to sell its share in the airport by the Competition Commission, who has suggested that the operator’s monopoly of the London airports is not in the public’s best interest. Geoff Muirhead said that if BAA did end up releasing some of its stakes, Manchester would certainly be interested in buying the assets, estimated to be worth £2 billion. If the buyout does go ahead Muirhead has assured the public that the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) would work alongside private airport investors to develop the airport and increase its value for shareholders.

Speaking to Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Mr Muirhead told listeners that the MAG is the only operator to have built a full-length runway in the UK since the Second World War, emphasising that all investments the airport group has made have been delivered on time and to budget. He later added, "We have a lot of skilled people who have developed very good relationships with airlines and other partners." As well as being the owner of the largest airport outside London, the MAG has also invested in East Midlands Airport where it has committed itself to making significant developments over the next few years.

The proposals follow recent criticism of BAA, the largest airport operator in the UK, by former MAG chairman, Graham Stringer, who said that the operator has become lazy, arguing that BAA could do significant damage to the country’s aviation industry. As BAA’s major rival, the MAG (which contributes £3.2 billion a year to the economy) is keen to prove itself as a forward thinking operator who could have a significant impact upon the standard of London airports.

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BA have dropped Manchester-New York flights

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Page last updated: 9th May 2008 - 10:10 AM

It has been confirmed today that the UK’s largest airline, British Airways, will drop their Manchester-JFK service in October, in favour of a new route from Gatwick to New York. The annulment of the route has come as a huge blow for airport operators, the Manchester Airport Group (MAG), who regret the loss of a BA service which has been popular with both business and leisure passengers.

The Manchester-New York route is the longest serving long-haul route to have been operated from the airport and now Delta is the only airline to offer a direct flight from Manchester to New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport. A spokesperson from Manchester highlighted the airport's disappointment at having the service cut, urging the airline to reconsider their decision.

In response BA have stated that their decision was made for economic reasons, maintaining that whilst they regretted having to drop the route, the service has been making a loss for some time. A BA representative stated "It's not a decision we have taken lightly… We have tried everything we can to turn it around, but, unfortunately, this has not been possible."

The airline’s new Gatwick service will begin operating from October 21st and will add a further seven flights to the fifty five BA services already flying from London to New York. In response to the new routes, Lynne Embleton, General Manager of Network Planning at Gatwick said that the new service would be beneficial in giving customers even more choice when looking to fly between London and New York. Meanwhile, the MAG is looking for another airline to replace the Manchester-JFK service from October.

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