Hundreds of people spent ‘at least an hour and a half’ tightly packed in a security queue at Stansted Airport earlier this week.
With not all of them wearing masks, the failure raises concerns about how well airports will cope when mass air travel begins again.
Last month, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said that social distancing at airports is ‘physically impossible’.
One of the people caught in the chaos, Fabio Cataldo, told us. ‘There were three flights to Spain at the same time but only two or three lanes available, and then a single queue’.
‘Social distancing was useless,’ Fabio continued. ‘There was no distance between people. It was chaos. If there was any risk of infection, all these people were exposed to it, including me.’
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Passengers miss flight – and have to pay extra
While Fabio and other passengers complained that around 50 people jumped the queue and ended up boarding the plane, he and his companions missed the flight and were forced to catch a later one.
He told us that it cost him £100 to book a new flight, with additional hotel and taxi expenses.
Safety at the airport
Stansted Airport’s website emphasises that all travellers need to wear face coverings but it doesn’t say anything about maintaining a safe distance between passengers.
Although passengers at English airports will be able to be one metre apart from 4 July, at the time of Fabio’s flight the two-metre rule was still in place.
Stansted Airport’s response
In a statement the airport told us:
‘The safety of passengers and our colleagues is paramount, and we have been working hard in recent months to prepare the airport to welcome back passengers. This includes the installation of protective screens, hand sanitiser stations throughout the airport and a requirement for all passengers to wear face coverings when inside the terminal.
‘These additional measures are designed to supplement existing guidance on social distancing, which we encourage passengers to maintain as far as possible.
‘We have apologised to those passengers who experienced some disruption this week as our teams adjust to the new procedures, and are working hard to ensure people can travel with confidence in line with any lifting of restrictions.
‘With more flights now operating we would remind passengers to allow plenty of time for their journey to the airport and arrive at the time requested by their airline.’
Worst airports for queues
Stansted Airport received a rating of just one star out of five for its security queues in the most recent Which? Travel survey of large airports and was in the bottom three of the table, along with Manchester T3 and London Luton.