By Ray Massey
Last updated at 6:43 PM on 11th October 2011
Security at airports must stay at a high level for millions of passengers because of the ‘real and ongoing threat’ of terrorism, Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said today.
But it must also be ‘passenger-friendly’, she insisted.
Miss Villiers was speaking at Gatwick as she officially opened a new £45million ‘queue-busting’ security area at the West Sussex airport’s south terminal.
She said: ‘We must maintain security levels as we face a real and ongoing threat from international terrorism.
‘It’s vital we maintain security but there are ways of doing it in a more passenger-friendly way.
‘It’s entirely possible to do two things at once – maintain the highest levels of security and deliver them in a passenger-friendly way.’
Airport bosses say the new security area at Gatwick should lead to each passenger being processed in under five minutes. The 19 new security lanes will allow almost 5,000 people per hour to pass straight through to the departure lounge.
The lanes include two reserved just for families with young children and passengers with reduced mobility, and two for passengers travelling first class or business class.
Before they go through security, passengers will get instructions on large screens in five languages to help them understand exactly what they can and cannot take through.
Also, passengers travelling through the new security area will benefit from security access gates where passengers simply swipe their boarding card or Smartphone displaying their boarding card.
Another feature is the colour-coded lanes with screens displaying the actual queue time, enabling passengers to choose the lane they want to use.
Gatwick officials said that smarter scanning technology means fewer bags need to be hand searched, and that automated processes speed passenger throughput by 25 per cent.
Under the old system, around 200 passengers would go through the security process every hour.
By contrast, under the new system, that hourly throughput has increased by 20 per cent to 250 passengers per hour. Passengers now spend on average less than five minutes in a queue.
Miss Villiers said: ‘For many people, going through airport security can be their least favourite part of flying.
‘That’s why this Government is committed to reforming the way these necessary checks are regulated, enabling airports to come up with more passenger-friendly processes while still maintaining the same high levels of security.’
Gatwick’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: ‘We’re committed to making the airport experience an easier, speedier and less stressful experience for our passengers. This opening is just part of a £1.2 billion investment in Gatwick, as we continually look to innovate and deliver solutions that will provide real benefit for passengers.’
Passengers appeared pleased with the new facility. Stephen Pattinson, from Maidstone, Kent, who was travelling with his wife Valerie said: ‘People seem to be moving through quite quickly.’
Another couple, Trevor and Elizabeth Owen, from Douglas, Isle of Man, said: ‘It looks an improvement.’