The Guardian - Helen Pidd and Joanna Partridge

Karen Smart stepped down on Tuesday after coming under fierce criticism from airport staff as well as angry travellers. She had been in the post for two years, during a turbulent time in aviation history.

“Having taken on the position at the start of the pandemic, she has decided now is the time to return to the south of England, where her family is based, to pursue fresh career opportunities,” Manchester Airports Group (MAG) said in a statement.

Ian Costigan, MAG’s group transformation director, will take on the role of interim managing director and will be responsible for delivering the programmes of recruitment needed to increase operational capacity over the summer.

One airport worker publicly quit this week over what he called “dangerous” and “chaotic” operations. Ray Ellis, who had worked at the airport since 1994 and had been a health and safety representative, said he was speaking out because he was “genuinely concerned for passenger safety”.

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