Birmingham Airport is investigating a major security breach after staff switched off a faulty metal detector – and forgot to switch it back on again.
The blunder was only realised when fully-uniformed police officers walked through the scanners and the alarms did not go off.
The metal embedded in their dress and equipment usually causes the scanners to bleep.
Hundreds of passengers streamed through the scanner whilst it was switched off on Sunday, February 14. And the revelations have raised fears that passengers’ safety is being put at risk.
The lapse comes at a time when the Home Office terrorism threat is listed as “severe”, which means an attack is “highly likely”.
The source said the scanner had been turned off when it was “quiet” because it was not working properly. And they said the airport was treating the incident as a serious failure.
A spokesman for Birmingham International Airport said: “We have launched an investigation into a situation which occurred on Sunday February 14, when a passenger Arch Metal Detector (AMD) in Terminal Two experienced technical issues. As soon as the security guards realised that the AMD was not working to a required standard, the security lane was immediately closed down.
“It is believed that the AMD was out of service for approximately 25 minutes. A full and thorough investigation is underway. The passenger search procedure is one element of a multi-layered security approach taken on all flights.”
Birmingham’s Perry Barr Labour MP, Khalid Mahmood, said: “This is purely incompetent. We have to be alert and vigilant at all times.
“It does not matter what day it was offline, or for how long. The terrorist will be happy to travel on a Sunday and this is just not good enough.
“We have to accept that sometimes equipment does not work, but there should be procedures in place to take machines offline without compromising security.
“We need to ensure that security is at the very highest level at all times. All of the machines that are being introduced are only as good as the people who are operating them.
“It is a blessing that nothing more serious came of this.”
The mistake comes just weeks before the airport plans to introduce controversial full body scanners, which make passengers appear naked on the screen.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that the scanners – which are already in place at Heathrow and Manchester airports – may be breaking discrimination law as well as breaching passengers’ rights to privacy.
The new scanners are being introduced following the attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day.
The UK Border Force is also planning to introduce facial recognition passport scanners at Birmingham Airport in the coming weeks.