Airlines mock decision to award BAA Olympics role

VisitTimes Online

BAA has been appointed as a security adviser to the organisers of the 2012 Olympic Games in a move that has been ridiculed by airlines, which have criticised the airports operator for long queues and poor service.

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is using BAA as an adviser on issues such as selection of security equipment, the amount of equipment required and crowd-handling, The Times has learnt.

BAA said yesterday that it was sharing its knowledge and experience on security matters with the ODA and would continue to do so. The relationship is thought to be informal and unpaid.

However, BAA’s involvement has surprised its airline customers, which have repeatedly criticised security arrangements at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted over the past two years.

Virgin Atlantic said: “BAA will certainly have plenty of knowledge about queues to share with the 2012 organisers. The British have almost perfected it as an Olympic sport.”

Last week the Competition Commission recommended in a draft report that BAA’s monopoly control of airports in the South East of England and Scotland should be broken up. One of the reasons it cited was poor service, including in the provision of security to airlines and passengers.

Ryanair, one of BAA’s fiercest critics, said: “If BAA have been appointed security advisers for the 2012 Olympics, the athletes will be lucky to get in by 2013. It will take at least six months for BAA to clear people through security.”

BAA has hired an extra 1,500 security staff and it said that its investment had resulted in 100 per cent of Heathrow passengers waiting less than ten minutes in queues last month, although the Competition Commission has criticised the way in which BAA collects this data.

BAA’s involvement with the ODA comes as preparations for the 2012 Games accelerate after the closing ceremony in Beijing on Sunday.

A shortlist of companies has been drawn up to supply security scanners and walk-through metal detectors, which includes Smiths, General Electric, Rapiscan and L3. It has been estimated that 1,000 of these devices will be needed.

Next month the ODA is expected to announce that it is seeking expressions of interest from companies to integrate all aspects of the security systems at the Games. BAE Systems, Europe’s largest defence company, wants to move into this market and said yesterday that it would consider a bid. Lockheed Martin, the American defence company, and Siemens, the German engineering giant, are also thought to be interested.

The 2012 budget of £9.3 billion includes £354 million for site security during construction, but the total cost, which will include policing and security service involvement, has not been revealed.

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