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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 10 August, 2020
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It's not all holidays, so who's getting on the flights out of Dublin Airport?

Dublin Airport is far from what’s normal for the first day of July.

20200701_111553 An empty check-in queue in Dublin Airport Source: TheJournal.ie

DON’T BELIEVE THE hype, Dublin Airport is not full of people heading off on summer holidays. Not yet anyway.

The debate about how much coming and going there should be from this country understandably kicked up a gear today.

It’s July, the weather is miserable and, perhaps most strangely, Europe’s largest airline is publicly questioning the advice of Ireland’s chief medical officer.

It isn’t Ryanair’s first intervention in the Covid-19 crisis but it is perhaps it’s loudest, coming on the day where the airline ramped up its flights across Europe.

The increase will have an effect on the numbers at Dublin Airport but it won’t alone be a gamechanger.

To put it in perspective, there’ll be about 200 flights in and out of Dublin Airport today, up from 100 on Monday but way down on the 800 flights there was this time last year. 

And that’s just the actual flights themselves, it doesn’t take account of how empty the planes may be. On Monday there were 4,000 passengers in and out, down from 116,000 this time last year. 

We won’t know exactly how many passengers there were in Dublin Airport today but based on the number of flights we could probably guess it’s about double Monday’s figure.

So how did the airport look at about noon today?

The best way to describe it is that it’s probably about as quiet as the quietest you’ve ever seen it when open. 

That is to say that people are checking in bags but they’re certainly not having to queue to do it.

With airlines also making it a requirement that you wear a mask to get on board a flight, over 80% of the passengers in the departures hall are wearing a mask. 

Those that aren’t will need one to get on a plane but the DAA is only asking people to wear one, it’s not mandatory to enter the building. 

There are hand-sanitisers dotted all across the airport and plenty of signs asking people to social distance. 10,000 signs in fact across the whole airport, according to DAA. 

The DAA’s Paul O’Kane says compliance is good because people know they have to act in a certain way in an airport. 

“As in all of these measures, it’s down to personal responsibility. People need to take the responsibility themselves to wear face masks and to observe social distancing. And we’d like people to do that,” he told TheJournal.ie.

People are used to airports being a different place and in that context an airport has always had specific rules and regulations about how it operates. Be that in terms of liquids and gels and other security measures. 

20200701_111016 Source: TheJournal.ie

In Dublin Airport’s Terminal 1 the departures board did list a number of flights to well-known sun destinations like Lanzarote and Salou, but most flights were either to European cities or were long-haul routes. 

Most people who spoke to TheJournal.ie were flying for one of two reasons. Either they had to return to somewhere or were going somewhere for a visit and would not be back in Ireland for months. 

A Greek mother and son were flying back to Greece via Dublin because it was the cheapest way they could get there from Brussels.

There was one young woman who was travelling home to Milan after being here for seven months. She works here but hasn’t been able to see her family because of Covid-19.

“I feel good, I’m very happy to be going home,” she said. 

There were others who simply had to travel because of work, with a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt one such flight that was clearly business focused. 

20200701_122243 Eli McMahon and Aaron Fitzgerald. Source: TheJournal.ie

There were also Irish people who were forced home because of Covid-19 and who were now returning abroad where they work or study. 

Eli McMahon and Aaron Fitzgerald were one such pair who were heading back to Berlin where Eli studies. The pair have been staying with family back here in Ireland and were having more emotional goodbyes this afternoon.

“We only moved there in January, so we were there for about two months before it all happened and then all the plans changed and we came back,” Aaron explains. 

When we got back here the airport was completely empty and there was only 20 people on the flight. Everyone was really cautious, I just didn’t know what was going to happen and I felt afraid.

Eli says they’re a bit nervous about returning to Berlin because they’ve heard stories about people not taking it too seriously. She says friends have told her about house parties but that once the R number is below 1 the authorities are happy for things to continue.

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“It’s good but there’s still anxiety about getting on planes and everything, we have the masks and that. It’s all just very weird,” she says. 

PastedImage-42317 Cormac Comerford in the Departures Hall this afternoon. Source: RonanDuffy/TheJournal.ie

Another Irish person who’s heading back to the continent is ski racer Cormac Comerford.

Comerford is heading to the French Alps via Milan for three weeks of training. He says he wouldn’t be travelling but for the fact that he doesn’t want to let his European-based rivals get too far ahead of him. 

“This is the first time I’m training again since my season ended, which was March. But a lot of people in Europe, all my peers and stuff have been training and competing, or training anyway, in Austria, Italy, France and whatever, so I’m late getting out. 

“The qualification period for the Olympics is opening today, actually. So yeah, the work starts for Beijing 2022 and I have to get out for training,” he adds. 

Comerford says that when he gets to his base in France he’ll be isolating and training with his team for the next two weeks before he comes home again. Again, he’ll of course have to quarantine here.

The Glenageary native was actually skiing in northern Italy when the Covid-19 pandemic kicked off in Europe in February.  

It was strange because Italy was in total lockdown but then in Austria and Germany it was kind of like life as normal, I just crossed the border and then it was fine. Then after that the whole thing changed.

Even aside from the mostly empty check-in desks and the abundance of face masks, there was other evidence that things aren’t quite back to normal yet either.

At the Qatar Airways check-in desk a group of unhappy passengers had been informed that their flight to Karachi via Doha had been cancelled.

An airline representative was informing them that no flights could land in Pakistan. The airline has publicly acknowledged in recent days that there is some confusion over entry restrictions in Pakistan.

A number of exasperated passengers told TheJournal.ie that this was the second day in a row that they’d come to the airport only to be told their flight would not be leaving.

PastedImage-61512 Zahid Niaz was flying to Pakistan where he is planning on staying for three months. Source: TheJournal.ie

“We were here yesterday at 10 in the morning until 6pm and they literally issued the boarding passes to us. Then when we were at the gate a manager came up to us and says you guys are not flying,” Amir Khan explained.

We said okay bring us to any airport in Pakistan and after spending eight hours at the airport they issued us new tickets today to Karachi, 1,300 km from Islamabad. We’ve now come to the airport this second day, they’ve given us boarding passes and now they’re telling us the exact same thing. 

Later, the passengers were informed that the flight would indeed be going ahead. But not before the huddled group of passengers had been told by an airport worker to stick in their households and to maintain a social distance.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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