Put the fun back into flying, pleads Alpha Airports boss

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The head of Alpha Airports, the airline caterer and retailer, called yesterday for a fundamental overhaul of aviation security checks to put some of the enjoyment back into air travel.

Peter Williams, the chairman and chief executive, said the new security arrangements, put in place after last month's alleged bomb plot in the UK, had turned what was already an unpleasant experience into "a pretty terrible" one.

"Flying used to be exciting and glamorous but now it is just a pain in the neck," Mr Williams said. "I don't know how many times your passport is checked these days before you get on a plane but it has to be four times. You don't have to take your belt and shoes off before they allow you into Selfridges or take your bottle of water away. It has all gone crazy. The opportunity to put more checks, controls and processes in place has been jumped on by the people who make a living out of this sort of thing."

Alpha said the security clampdown at airports such as Heathrow last month had cost it £1m in lost revenues and £300,000 in lost profits, and warned yesterday the remainder of this year would be challenging.

Underlying profits before tax for the six months to the end of July were up 34 per cent to £8.3m, not including a £2.7m charge to cover the accounting scandal which hit Alpha earlier this year and led to the departure of its chairman, chief executive and finance director.

The group, which operates in UK airports under the Alpha tax and duty free stores, World News and Glorious Britain brands, said it had signed a 10-year extension to its contract at Manchester airport, worth £800m.

Mr Williams added that it was looking to win in-flight catering deals in Saudi Arabia and India and improve the profitability of its Australian operation.