Manchester Airport boss Karen Smart quits top job after weeks of airport chaos

Managing director Ms Smart has stepped down with a new interim boss taking her place.

Manchester Airports Group has today confirmed its managing director, Karen Smart, has decided to step down.

Ms Smart held a number of roles within the group over the last eight years, including two years in the top job, but the airport’s management has come under fire in the last few weeks after staffing issues left it struggling to cope with a spike in passenger numbers - leading to long queues and some travellers missing flights.

Ms Smart took over the reins at a challenging time for the aviation industry, at the start of the Covid pandemic, and has now announced she will return to the south of England to spend time with her family.

Ian Costigan will take on the role of Interim Managing Director - and the huge task of recruiting enough staff to help the airport cope with the surge in demand for travel since Covid restrictions were lifted in the UK. He has been with the group in various roles since 203.

What have airport bosses said?

MAG CEO Charlie Cornish said: “Over the last two years, Karen has guided Manchester Airport through the most challenging period of its 84-year history, having made a major contribution to MAG throughout her time with the business.

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“I am sorry to lose Karen after her years of valuable service, but also understand her desire to return to the South for family reasons and indeed to explore new career opportunities.

“While there are sure to be further challenges ahead, I am confident we will soon start to see the benefits of the recovery plans Karen has helped put in place and look forward to working with Ian and his leadership team to drive them forward.”

Earlier this week, some local councillors stepped forward to criticise management at the airport, which is part-owned by Greater Manchester local authorities - with one demanding they ‘get a grip’ on delays and problems amid concerns for passenger safety and comfort in crowded airport halls.