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Manchester’s airport is using a new ‘ping’ system to work out how long passengers are queuing at the security and passport control gates and help them plan for busy periods more effectively. The airport staff can track travelers who have their wi-fi switched on, this enables them to tell exactly how long you are queuing – and where you’re going when.

However, managers at Britain’s third-busiest airport insist that the technology is unobtrusive and that no attempt is made to access customer’s phones or data.

Launched in February and discussed at a Manchester Airport Consultative Committee meeting, the method replaces previous attempts to track passengers using bluetooth – and before that selecting passengers to follow by sight.

In Departures, the tracking begins when a passenger enters the boarding pass scanner and continues up to the tray area of security. In Arrivals, tracking starts when a passenger reaches the queue after getting off the plane and ends when they make it through passport control.

Collette Roche, interim managing director at Manchester Airport told “This year, we have invested in new wi-fi tracking technology that entails customers entering a building through security or through immigration and us picking up a ‘ping’ from their mobile phone. The technology gives us a unique reference number which is then tracked as they go through our building by nodes in the ceiling.”

She said:  “No personal data is used or passed, but the unique reference number does mean we can track customers more effectively and efficiently to see how they are passing through. This gives us quality data on security and immigration”. She said that around 30 airports internationally are thought to be using this method.