Boss of Manchester Airport quits amid chaos for travellers

Travellers have faced long delays and chaotic scenes.

05 April 2022

The managing director at Manchester Airport has quit after weeks of chaos for travellers.

Karen Smart will return to the south of England for family reasons and to “pursue fresh career opportunities”, said her bosses.

Travellers have faced long delays and chaotic scenes, with queues trailing outside terminals to reach check-in and hordes of people waiting to get through security and to pick up luggage.

Piles of suitcases have been left in terminals after travellers abandoned the wait to reclaim their baggage and instead left for home.

Karen Smart leaves Manchester Airport
Karen Smart has resigned as managing director of Manchester Airport (Manchester Airport/PA)

The airport, along with much of the aviation industry, has struggled to recruit staff made redundant after the pandemic shut down airports and travel.

As the Easter getaway increases travel, similar problems have hit other airports including Heathrow and Birmingham.

Airport bosses at Manchester apologised this weekend to passengers after they admitted they had “fallen short of the standards they expected”.

Ms Smart took on the managing director role at the start of the pandemic and has worked for Manchester Airports Group (MAG) for eight years, including a stint in charge at East Midlands Airport.

MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “Over the last two years, Karen has guided Manchester Airport through the most challenging period of its 84-year history, having made a major contribution to MAG throughout her time with the business.

“I am sorry to lose Karen after her years of valuable service, but also understand her desire to return to the South for family reasons and indeed to explore new career opportunities.

“While there are sure to be further challenges ahead, I am confident we will soon start to see the benefits of the recovery plans Karen has helped put in place.”

Ian Costigan moves from his post as group transformation director to become interim managing director.

Earlier on Tuesday, John O’Neill, North West regional industrial officer for Unite, said union officials were meeting airport management to discuss pay.

He said after mass redundancies due to Covid, some workers have found alternative jobs with similar wages and may not be willing to return to work at the airport doing unsocial hours for similar rates of pay.

MAG, which also runs Stansted and East Midlands airports, is partly owned by the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester, with the biggest stake held by Manchester Council.

The MAG airport site is currently offering jobs for drivers with a starting salary of £13,000 a year and security “ambassador” jobs targeted for students paying £10.53 per hour, including night shifts, 3am starts, weekends and bank holidays.

Last year’s annual report for Manchester Airport showed the top earning director was paid £2.5 million in 2021, a £500,000 increase on the previous year, and pay for directors as a whole increased from £5.9 million to £7.3 million in 2021.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Bargain-basement wages and insecure jobs must be consigned to the past if the sector wants to get back on track.

“It is pretty simple – if you want to thrive, treat your workers with respect and don’t attack their jobs, pay and conditions.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.