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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Revamp for tumbledown tower

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.

Solicitors march on Manchester Airport

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.

Top airport hotel saved from going under in Last Minute deal

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.

Man charged £900 at Manchester Airport car park

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.”

Russian pilots breach alcohol limits at Manchester

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.

Manchester Airport expansion causes controversy

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.

Manchester-bound "flight from hell"

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!

Staff at Manchester Airport cancel strike

Staff 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.”