Auckland Airport queues worsened by lack of Aviation Security staff – union

Aviation insiders say airport security staff are on the verge of burnout and accidents are bound to happen, due to the growing number of passengers they are expected to process amid a dire staffing shortage.

Auckland Airport, in particular, has come under fire in recent weeks for long delays, with high-profile travellers including former Prime Minister Helen Clark saying the country’s reputation is being damaged as a result.

As well as the staffing issues, Checkpoint can reveal that for the past month, airline staff have had to wait in line with the rest of the passengers rather than being processed through a separate staff entrance. This has led to an estimated 150 people queuing up every hour.

Public Service Association (PSA) national secretary Duane Leo said Aviation Security (AvSec) workers were at breaking point.

“The real issue here is that there’s no fat in the system to deal with these challenges – AvSec aren’t recruiting new staff at the moment.

“What they’re doing is only replacing staff who depart, so the lag effect from there is that when they have staff down, they have real shortages.”

Leo said as a result, workers were doing overtime and it was taking its toll. As well as jeopardising the workers’ health and wellbeing, Leo said it increased the chances of mistakes being made.

“What we don’t want is again something happening, something being compromised, something being missed, an incident occurring, that requires bottom line AvSec to hire more people.”

If something was not done, there was a risk workers would call time on their jobs.

The PSA has been in regular talks with the Aviation Security Service to try to find solutions.

“There is a real squeeze on the current funding they have… Their costs are exceeding their revenue – that model needs to be looked at again, because they are obviously not being able to adequately staff services.”

AvSec declined to be interviewed, but said in a statement it had not introduced a hiring freeze, but was taking a more deliberate approach to managing costs, and considering how it manages recruitment is part of this.

While it does rely on people working extra hours from time to time, it said this was optional for staff and it was careful to ensure workers were not over-committing.

It said its staff turnover rate was 10 percent nationally and 13 percent at Auckland Airport.

Busy scene at Auckland International Airport

Auckland Airport said it could process 2000 passengers per hour through departures. But AvSec said it could only manage 1800 – a potential shortfall of 200 passengers an hour.

Cath O’Brien from the Board of Airline Representatives said this could be behind some of the recent delays at the airport.

“Big long lines as you head into that customs queue through AvSec and out the other side into the duty free halls.”

Making matters worse, for the past month airline staff at Auckland Airport have been unable to use their staff entrance to get through security due to facility upgrades.

That means they have had to queue up with the rest of the public, further adding to the slow snake of passengers heading to the departure gate.

“With that facility closed, that’s pushing another 150 people through the abject lanes at the peak.”

The airport said that issue had been resolved, and the staff entrance was back open.

O’Brien said airlines were not happy about the state of affairs at Auckland Airport.

“I’m getting a lot of feedback from airlines about the challenge, in particular, they’re having customers come late to aircraft. Those customers are stressed because they think that the aircraft is going to leave without them.

“It’s certainly not a great thing as a last thing [when] you leave New Zealand to be in a line for an hour and then kind of racing through the terminal.”

Transport Minister Simeon Brown said the recent delays at Auckland Airport were frustrating.

In a statement, he said he had made his expectations clear that AvSec needed to improve its efficiency and have a greater focus on meeting customers’ needs.

Brown said he expected the Civil Aviation Authority to work with the Ministry of Transport to ensure things improve.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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