By RYAN TAYLOR
Morale among security staff at Sumburgh Airport is said to be at a low ebb because of grumbling passengers faced with extended waiting times following stringent new protection measures.
Chairman of the airport’s consultative committee, former councillor Jimmy Smith, has warned that security could suffer as a result, because a drop in morale could lead to an increase in the number of mistakes being made among staff.
Mr Smith is so concerned that he is asking for an urgent meeting with Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) managing director Inglis Lyon and safety officer Alan Shaw.
The stark warning came as consultative committee members discussed security measures at the airport aimed at combating possible terrorist threats compared with those at larger airports down south.
“Since the last meeting was held I have heard complaints about what is happening at the airport,” Mr Smith said. “Many concern security and the delays that is causing here.”
He said the flow of traffic and passengers runs much more smoothly at Scatsta Airport than it does at Sumburgh, with planes possibly taking off within half an hour of a helicopter landing at Scatsta.
At the Sumburgh airport, Mr Smith said, waiting times could range from 45 minutes to over an hour, and these had mostly been down to security.
“Passengers have complained about things on the Flybe side, although these are not complaints about staff, be it handing, ground staff or flight staff.
“But one of the concerns is that passengers for Inverness one morning had to go three times through security.
“Complaints have been coming from MPs, MSPs and commuters in general.
“The security staff morale is lowering, and more mistakes can be made under any job if morale is low. Security staff are picking up a lot of flack.”
Mr Smith said the level of security at an airport should be measured against the perceived level of threat that is there.
“Security should be commensurable with the perceived threat, and I don’t see much of a threat in Shetland.
“The departure lounge is not as big as it could be, but it could cope with two Saabs going out in the morning.”
Mr Smith said he was disappointment that Mr Lyon and Mr Shaw had failed to visit members of the consultative committee in several years.
“I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that neither of these gentlemen have seen fit to come to this meeting for some time,” he said.
In November 2007 the committee called for a meeting with the HIAL chief amid fears Inverness was becoming the focal point for the airport company’s business interests.
Mr Smith admitted that, although Mr Lyon had been to Shetland in that time, he had not met the consultative committee.
Shetland South councillor Rick Nickerson said he thought the scanner passengers walk through before boarding their flight had been set at too high a level.
He said he had recently undertaken a journey that involved him passing through security at three airports – including Gatwick – and Sumburgh was the only one where the bleepers went off.
Meanwhile, Lerwick councillor Gussie Angus told the committee that delays could be caused by inexperienced staff calling for help from a supervisor to give the all-clear.