‘A job really kills any life’: Secrets of a British airport security officer | Airlines Industries

Anti-social hours, long days on your feet, dealing with impatient and sometimes unpleasant passengers. This is the life of an airport security officer.

Their role is to check passengers and their baggage before boarding the plane, and they are key to ensuring the safety and smooth running of the airport. But the work isn’t paying well, and airports are struggling to hire enough people to staff X-ray machines and metal detectors as air travel bounces back after Covid.

As airports get busier and queues grow to bypass security, those on the front lines are under pressure.

Now, a security officer who worked for several years in the arrival hall at Stansted Airport, located in north-east London, has come forward to share the behind-the-scenes facts of the job. The guardian protects his identity because that is his only job.

He currently works two long shifts a week, mostly on weekends, with starts too early to manage the morning rush to check out.

“They don’t seem to keep people. But it is hard work. Generally we start work at 4 am so getting up at 2 am to start work is killer. Of course you have to sleep early, so it really kills any life,” said the man. , in his fifties, told the Guardian newspaper.

He earns £14 an hour and brings home about £1,200 a month.

Manchester Airport was among the UK’s airports with large queues after schools closed for Easter. Photography: Peter Byrne/Penn

A group of colleagues work in a team around an X-ray machine. Passengers are greeted and then asked to take their belongings out of their pockets and place them and their bags in a plastic tray to be checked.

Passengers pass through a metal detector and are searched if necessary.

Each security officer is only allowed to sit on the x-ray machine and observe the monitor for a maximum of 20 minutes. However, this is often the only time during their shift that the security officer can sit down, without short tea breaks.

“The problem we have is a shortage of staff,” he said. “The last few times I’ve been, we’ve come to the end of our shift and there was no one to take over from us. We’ve had to close the driveway doors and just walk away.”

“It was especially bad a couple of weeks ago. We left the machine full of bags, too many people queuing to get in, and we just had to shut down the machine and get away from it,” he said, adding that managers had to scramble to find workers to take on the job.

The security officer believes that the current staff shortage is preventing Stansted from opening sufficient security lanes, which leads to long lines, or “snakes” for passengers, and more people who miss their flights.

“When the machine is full of trays that need to be searched, the machine stops and no one passes, which stops the whole process and the snakes become incredibly long. You can hear people calling from the aisles; they have lost their flight. Passengers often cry, which is not pleasant.”

Inside shots of Stansted Airport
About half of the security officers at Stansted Station have taken a voluntary redundancy during the Covid pandemic. Photo: Graham Turner/The Guardian

About half of terminal security officers in Stansted have voluntarily taken a surplus during the pandemic, as part of plans by the airport’s owner, Manchester Airports Group, to cut costs while planes remain confined due to travel restrictions imposed by Covid.

The group plans to hire around 300 people to fill the vacancies, with announcements of new recruits on the London Underground urging them to “make an impact on countless passengers”, with the promise that all training is included and no experience is required.

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Among the incentives designed to attract potential workers are an 80% discount on bus and train travel to the airport, as well as a free north London bus for employees who start work before public transport begins.

A London Stansted spokesperson said the airport had received an “excellent” response to the recruitment drive, with many applicants already under scrutiny and training. They said the airport was “confident that we will have the passenger terminal security officers we require to operate an entire flight schedule this summer.”

The security officer believes that he and his colleagues will feel more valued if they earn more for doing their important work.

“They can take all the jobs tomorrow if they pay people more money. It all comes down to the fact that they won’t pay more. They decided it was a low paying job.” “If I can, I’ll leave tomorrow.”

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