HUNDREDS of passengers had to check in twice after a group of people got into the Southend Airport departures lounge without being screened.

The chaos kicked off at about 6am yesterday when all the passengers in the departures lounge had to be processed again due to the breach.

After six people managed to get through to the lounge without being screened, security staff were taking no chances.

Flights were hit with slight delays in a bid to make sure everyone was able to board their flight.

Gary Homer, 60, of North Road, Southend, was waiting for his flight to Bulgaria.

He said: “We had gone through the security scanners and were upstairs by the security check when six people walked out of the lift air-side and declared they had got there without going through security.

“All of them were taken back out to go through security, but as the airport staff were not able to tell how many other people had ‘gone through’ this way so everybody had to be evacuated from the departure lounge, including the staff.

“Everyone then had to go through the full security check again, which caused quite an uproar. To make matters worse, any drinks purchased for the flight, such as bottled water, had to now be discarded as you are only allowed to take 100ml of fluids through security.”

He added: “It was absolute chaos. They were making last calls for boarding for the flight out to Dublin whilst people were still queuing for security. The flight had to be held back.

A spokesman for Southend Airport confirmed six people managed to get into the lounge due to equipment failure and said people were delayed by less than 20 minutes.

They said: "The airport security team did an excellent job in swiftly stopping all operations through central search, evacuating all passengers and staff landside, sweeping through all of the airside spaces and then reprocessing all passengers and staff back airside. This was the correct course of action and was carried out promptly and professionally as soon as they became aware of the issue. We apologise for any inconvenience this might have caused to passengers." An investigation is underway.