Security still the greatest barrier

If anyone doubts the devastating impact of slow, stringent security on footfall and penetration in our channel, take a look at the picture below. It’s the scene at Brussels International Airport last Saturday, 6 June, at around 9am. The passengers you see in the foreground are still around 10-15 minutes from reaching the security point, but they’ve already been waiting – as have I at this point – for around 30-35 minutes in one of the longest queues I’ve seen at a European airport since late 2006 – when the LAGs regulations on aviation security were drafted in.

It’s not as easy to see in the image, but the queue snakes back around the concourse, past virtually all of the nice shop fronts that retailers have spent heavily investing in – underneath the escalators towards the back of the shopping zone – and winds its way back towards security once more.

Like others I met in the queue, my plans to shop for my wife and children went straight out the window at the demoralising sight of the long line of people – even with plenty of time to spare, getting through those barriers became the only goal.

Over the course of 50-plus minutes, we edged past virtually empty stores – with the occasional shopper inside glancing despperately at the lengthening line outside.  

I have no idea if any – or how many – passengers missed flights because of the long waiting times – but I do know there were many lost sales that day.

A little depressingly, I’m not sure what else the airport can do in the short term here at Pier B. All of the X-ray machines were open and fully staffed – there simply were not enough machines to handle the volumes coming through.

Purely from a passenger’s point of view, widening the security zone or moving it to the pre-retail area – at no little cost – would appear to be the obvious solutions. But until that happens, Brussels Pier B pre-security will continue to be a wasteland for retail on a Saturday morning.


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