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Dublin Airport 'holding areas' outside terminal building to be used for early passengers if needed

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips says he does not expect the system to be needed this weekend.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Jun 1st 2022, 3:29 PM

DUBLIN AIRPORT IS to introduce a new system as part of efforts to ensure that passengers do not miss their flights over the Bank Holiday weekend and into the summer. 

DAA CEO Dalton Philips has told the Transport Committee this afternoon that an element of Dublin Airport’s plan will be to filter people into the airport building based on when their flight is departing. 

When the airport gets busy, DAA said it will be triaging access to the terminals and only allowing departing passengers into the departures level that have flights departing within two and a half hours to short-haul destinations and three and a half for long-haul destinations.

Passengers who arrive earlier than that will be asked to wait in a dedicated passenger holding area, with special consideration being given to those passengers who require special assistance and flyers travelling with autism.

DAA said it will put in place bad weather cover, seating, and toilets in the holding area as quickly as possible in the coming days following trialling of this system over the June Bank Holiday Weekend.

Asked for details of the areas where people may be asked to wait, Philips said DAA will use some of the outside areas already in use and “some of our short-term car parks” in both terminals. 

Philips says the DAA does not expect to be required to use the system this weekend but that “as the numbers build over the summer, we want to have the contingency”. 

Asked by committee chair Kieran O’Donnell TD whether people may therefore be queuing outside in the rain this weekend, Philips said “potentially”. 

Chaos

The move comes after the scenes at Dublin Airport last weekend where people were forced to queue for hours and over 1,000 people missed flights. 

Apologising for what happened, Philips said that DAA “failed in our duty to our passengers”. 

He said that the cause of the delays was down to a staffing “anomaly” that saw security staff “down 37 officers” of whom “17 of these were new recruits who weren’t certified yet”. 

“This anomaly has since been resolved in our processes,” Philips said, adding: 

This leads me to what will be different this Bank Holiday Weekend and into the extremely busy summer months of June, July and August ahead.

dalton DAA CEO Dalton Philips. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Despite last weekend’s staffing “anomaly”, Philips admitted that the DAA was “wildly wrong” in its estimates of the post-Covid recovery of passenger numbers. 

He told the committee that 248 security staff were made redundant during Covid and that passengers now “took off” in March of this year. 

When you’re downsizing, we took all the industry analysts data and we worked through that to try and predict what the traffic levels will be for 2022/23/24 and we reduced our overall cost base to meet that. We will wildly wrong in terms of the recovery levels that happened

He said that “every credible rating agency” predicted that 2022 traffic levels would remain at less than 70% of 2019 levels but that, by last month, this was up to 95% in Dublin Airport’s Terminal 1.

“To put this in context, on average during May, the airport has handled almost 16,500 extra passengers every single day which no one in the industry had predicted six months ago,” he said. 

Advice

The advice to passengers due to fly out of Dublin Airport over the coming period is to arrive at the airport at least two and a half hours before the departure of short-haul flights to Europe and the UK and at least three and a half hours for long-haul flights.

If passengers have checked luggage, they are advised to add an hour to those timings. 

Speaking this evening, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that he has confidence in the management team at the airport that the situation will improve. 

I believe we will get through this weekend. It’s not just this weekend, it is next number of weeks as the numbers of passengers go up. It takes them time to bring in the new workers that they are training, but they have to and will do it and we’re committed to helping in whatever we can.

Ryan added: “It’s not tolerable, it’s not allowable, that you can have passengers queuing for three to four hours and then missing a flight.”

At today’s committee hearing, Philips was repeatedly asked whether he could “guarantee” that people wouldn’t miss their flights this coming weekend, Philips said that he has a “high level of confidence” this would not happen. 

“If passengers will will heed the two and a half hours, I’m confident with our plans,” he said. 

Politicians have called for management at DAA to be dismissed over the disruptive scenes at the weekend.

Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell said last weekend’s scenes of long queues were “predictable and unforgivable”.

“Ministers have met with the DAA and yet we’re no clearer if the scenes of last weekend will be repeated this coming back holiday weekend, and I have very little faith that they will be avoided.

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“How many needs to be in the queue before somebody asks if heads should roll,” he asked.

“If you can’t manage airport operations, I cannot be alone in suggesting that there needs to be a change. And I’m not referring to this chief executive who has already announced his intention to move on.”

Army
Junior Minister at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said today that DAA could bring in external crowd control measures. “There’s plenty companies out there who manage crowds going through to concerts and if they need to do that they have the resources to do it. Whatever is required, they need to put in place.

“The DAA have to ensure that they are maximising every resource they have … they’re a commercial entity. It is their role to be able to manage passengers and do whatever is needed.”

But Naughton dismissed suggestions that the army could be brought in to alleviate queues.

“It’s unclear in relation to what the Army would do at this point, particularly coming into the weekend.

“The crux is around security officers who are specially trained [and] have to have a particular certification.”
With reporting by Rónan Duffy, Christina Finn, Garreth MacNamee and Emer Moreau

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