Staff at Manchester Airport on look-out for human trafficking

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.

Human traffickers could be in an anonymous crowd in Manchester City

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.

For more information on security going in and out of Manchester Airport and whether you’ll be affected, check before you travel.



John Menzies exits four UK airports

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.


Trattoria Milano Restaurant opens at Manchester Airport

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.


Manchester warns on Chinese lanterns

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.


Eye-scanner debuts at Manchester

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.


Manchester claims ACI award

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.


Airport offers allotments to staff

Imagine being offered allotments from your workplace? That’s exactly what happened to Manchester Airport Staff, who have been offered their own green space as part of the airport’s efforts to reduce stress and increase green space.

Two birds and one stone… you might think!

Continue reading…


Manchester unveils Aruba route

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.


Trouble, as mysterious powder is seized

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 hangar squashes family homes

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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