Birmingham Airport answers 16 questions on queues, liquids and passenger confusion

As Birmingham Airport continues to go through a major period of change, we put a number of passengers questions to airport bosses as the summer holidays get closer. Over the last few weeks there have been scenes of "chaos" as hundreds of passengers queue to get into the terminal through building works, particularly at peak early morning times.

The queues die down by mid-morning, but there has been traveller confusion over the reworked 100ml max rule on liquids, compounded by reduced queueing space as the airport pauses unveiling its "next generation" security hall. As a result, the airport has had some passengers turning up seven hours early for their flight, and in some cases, with non-compliant liquids like tubs of slime.

BirminghamLive has regularly been live-blogging the airport, to try and keep our readers up to speed. We will always represent the situation as it as at the time, whether that is passengers breezing through in minutes or more hectic scenes.

READ MORE: Birmingham Airport boss' two-word message to every passenger worried about queues

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Birmingham Airport answers most asked questions

1) Can you introduce queue markers to give an indication of the time it takes from various points along the queue like they have at theme parks?

No. The environment of an airport and the security sensitivities/requirements in place are somewhat different to the likes of Alton Towers. Getting on a plane and the time it takes to ensure everyone will be kept safe, is different to getting on a rollercoaster and should, rightly take longer.

2) There used to be a real-time tracker on the website about wait times. Will you bring this back?

The real-time tacker was an estimate of queuing at the time. When the building works commenced this facility was removed. We will review availability of this function, once building works have been completed.

3) Why were only five lanes in use on Sunday, June 16, when the queue was two hours long? Will there be a time when all 7 are up and running?

The queue was not two hours on Sunday. 75% of our customers travelling through waited less than 20 minutes for security. Even at our very busy peak in the morning the queue was less than 60 minutes to access security. Read our full report on Birmingham Airport's denial of two-hour queues.

Birmingham Airport queues for security and departures on June 11. -Credit:Birmingham Live
Birmingham Airport queues for security and departures on June 11. -Credit:Birmingham Live

4) Will there be a time when all 7 are up and running? This question based on our reporter Nick Horner's experience, which you can read more on here.

Lane usage is based on demand and throughput of passengers. At the time you reference, three in four passengers were being processed in less than 20 minutes.

5) When is your peak period and what is being done to improve things for summer?

We see peaks across the year based on route offerings, different passenger profiles and demographics. Summer, which we now see extending as far as October, and Winter are our main peaks.

As announced recently we have completed our new temporary facility that will see a third-party customer service team operate ‘liquid check stations’ within this facility. This will ensure that cabin baggage is compliant when processing through security.

6) How many hours do you recommend people turn up before their flight?

The advice for all passengers is the same, whether with baggage to be checked, or just hand luggage, turn up when your airline advises. This is typically between three to two hours. However, the detail is on all bookings as it is in line with when the airline opens the check in desk. Passengers being unduly influenced by media hype are arriving at the airport some 5 – 6 hours before their flight. Since June 3, no known passengers have missed their flights due to queuing.

Airline passengers faced huge queues at Birmingham Airport on morning of June 14 -Credit:SWNS
Airline passengers faced huge queues at Birmingham Airport on morning of June 14 -Credit:SWNS

7) Some days seem busier and have big problems less so – can you please give people an idea of the best days to fly?

Over the past 8-10 days we have not had big queues. Since the introduction of our additional measures to assist customers with the liquid rule this has helped with the flow through security.

As an operational airport each day is different, we have also added additional measures in place to ensure our customers understand the 100ml rule before they process security.

8) The queues appear to build up around 4am and continue for several hours – what is your peak period for flights and therefore your peak period for the security queue?

We see our first planned peak of the day in the early morning. Due to security threat and risk, we would never give out passenger peak details as this could be used maliciously.

What we are seeing is people turning up too early for their flight, especially if they only have hand luggage. This impacts the projected passengers that security is expecting for that time, so the key message is for customers to only turn up when their airline advises. In these instances we would encourage passengers to listen to their airlines and not the media or social channels.

9) You’ve advised people to take items out of the plastic bag they are used when travelling with 100ml items. But people have said they are worried about items spilling. What is your advice on plastic bags?

The bags are no longer required. However, if a passenger wants to use a plastic or toiletry bag it doesn’t matter, so long as no liquid exceeds 100ml in any container. Read our full story on the 100ml rule and what can and can't be taken here.

10) How have the queues affected the businesses on the other side of security in the departure lounge?

The ‘queues’ are not consistent and have occurred occasionally during limited, peak times. It is wrong to assume that all 45,000 customers that travel through our airport are impacted by security queueing.

11) Do you have figures on how many people have missed flights per day or week in May and June and can you let us know what the numbers are?

Since June 3 no known passengers have missed their flights.

12) When will the upstairs security area work be finished – do you have a date? We have reported that ground space is being freed up but no fixed date yet.

The main building works are already completed that enabled our new security area to open on June 1. However, further works continue that do not impact the security hall directly. We have a programme of investment of £300m over the next ten years for development.

New 'tented' covered areas have been introduced outside Birmingham Airport's main terminal building to protect passengers haveing to queue up outside for security
The airport at around 11am, which is often when the queues die down

13) How many people have non-compliant bottles or other items that breach the 100ml rule?

We are seeing in excess of 1.5 tonnes of liquid, pastes and gels each day removed from cabin luggage. The majority are drinks bottles but also a large amount of suncream. Bottles that look small but actually measure more than 100ml. We need passengers to check, and double check, so that they clear security compliantly.

14) What time do you expect people to have to wait to go through security when everything is up and running and running smoothly? We have 25 minutes in our notes.

Today, passengers were waiting less than 25 minutes. We hope to continue to see improvements with the new measures we put in place.

15) Are you able to spread flights out more throughout the day?

The majority of our carriers are low-cost meaning that they choose to complete several rotations in a day. This means that their operations have to start early in the day, making the start-up of the airport’s schedule a busy period. However, each airline works differently, and operating models differ between long haul, low cost and scheduled.

There is no need to change our flight schedules, and once the new security machines have the 2L temporary restriction lifted they will be able to operate as they were intended to.

16) What is your message to any traveller worried about queues and liquid rules?

"Be prepared" is the message from CEO Nick Barton to every Birmingham Airport passenger. You can read our full interview with the travel boss, here.