Advertisement

We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Aer Lingus CEO Lynn Embleton
Flying

Aer Lingus says it 'can't guarantee' no flights will be cancelled over bank holiday weekend

Delays with processing luggage has meant some passengers have needed to leave the airport without their bags.

LAST UPDATE | 26 Jul 2022

AER LINGUS HAS said it intends to run a full schedule of flights this bank holiday weekend, but cannot guarantee that there will be no cancellations.

The airline appeared before the Oireachtas Transport Committee today along with representatives for Dublin Airport operator DAA and baggage handling companies Swissport and Sky Handling Partner (SHP).

Aer Lingus has been in hot water in recent weeks over cancelled flights, long delays and baggage handling issues, resulting in luggage going missing or arriving several days after passengers reach their destination.

CEO Lynn Embleton said the airline will give passengers as much notice as possible if their flight is cancelled.

She said last-minute cancellations were mostly a result of staff contracting Covid, but most cancelled flights were as a result of flight caps in other European airports.

Heathrow has said it will continue to cap flights until at least late October.

Embleton said Aer Lingus had “less visibility” of how this would affect its own flight schedule into the autumn.

COO Peter O’Neill said there will be cancellations between now and then.

He said all flights had standbys in place for the bank holiday weekend.

“Our intention is for no cancellations. I can’t give an absolute guarantee on it.”

Embleton apologised to passengers whose flights had been cancelled recently, but noted that Aer Lingus’s cancellation rate for last month was lower than several other European airlines.

The Irish airline cancelled 1.8% of its flights in June, compared to one in 10 Lufthansa flights, 7% of Air France flights, KLM’s 11% and EasyJet’s 14%.

In her opening statement, Embleton said Aer Lingus “planned for and were prepared” for the return to full flight schedules after the pandemic, but said “this readiness was not matched by airports and ground handlers”.

She said DAA’s current advice to arrive 2.5 hours before takeoff for short-haul flights, and 3.5 hours for long haul – plus another hour to check bags in – was “problematic”. It was causing bottlenecks at bag drop and check in, she said.

Dublin Airport’s Managing Director Vincent Harrison said security in the airport is now “far more robust” than the weekend of May 29th, when 1,400 passengers missed their flights.

Screenshot 2022-07-26 at 11.01.47

He said staffing levels at security have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels and over 85% of passengers are getting through security in half an hour or less.

The airport clearly still has a journey ahead to rebuild trust with our passengers, and to restore all aspects of our operations to the standards that we routinely delivered pre-Covid

“I believe there is a growing understanding amongst passengers of just how complex the causes of these issues are.”

Harrison said that so far there had been no need to bring in the Defence Forces to assist with delays.

Baggage

Delays with processing luggage has seen some passengers needing to leave the airport before their bags come through the carousel, leading to unclaimed bags piling up in the arrivals area, while others have been lost.

SHP’s managing director Darren Moloney conceded that its standards “have simply not returned to pre-pandemic levels”.

He told the committee that the company currently has 2,897 lost bags. SHP can process 350 bags per day, he said, but it is receiving an additional 270 missing bags per day.

Both Moloney and Tony Tully, the Director Of Ground Operations for Swissport in the UK and Ireland, said many of their staff left during the pandemic for other jobs

Tully said that a rapid return in demand for air travel has “exacerbated” resource challenges.

Both men pointed to the implementation of an EU regulation that heightened security background checks at the start of this year, saying that it dramatically slowed recruitment for the first three months of 2022.

Additionally, restrictions against non-EU licence holders from driving at the airport is another barrier.

Moloney said that because of baggage’s “position at the end of the process, it’s often the baggage handlers who have to absorb the knock-on effects of delays further up the chain, so that they’re already facing a delay before they get to start on their part”.

“This isn’t to deflect blame on any one party but to be a reminder that aviation can be viewed as an ecosystem where delays in one part combine and escalate to cause delays in another part – it’s not just about how quickly baggage is loaded on and off the aircraft.”

Swissport has brought in 300 more employees this year to date while SHP has 280 recently recruited workers who have either started or are due to complete training in the next two weeks.

“The rapid rebound in international travel has presented significant challenges for aviation globally. Dublin has been no exception in this regard,” Moloney said.

A new landside location has been introduced near both terminals to allow it to move bags to a secure site where they can be processed for local delivery by courier for reflighting if necessary.

“More importantly, it also permits passengers to attend and claim lost baggage. This is a critical development as passenger access to Airside locations are limited by security protocols.”

Additional reporting from Tadgh McNally and Lauren Boland

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
25
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel