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Final Call

DAA given until tomorrow morning to find solutions to airport chaos, ministers say

Around 1,000 people missed a flight yesterday because of lengthy queues.

LAST UPDATE | 30 May 2022

DUBLIN AIRPORT MANAGEMENT have been told to find solutions that can be implemented to resolve the extreme delays experienced by passengers in queues at Dublin Airport this weekend.

Officials were told of government ministers’ “immense disappointment and frustration” at the scenes over the weekend which led to more than 1,000 passengers missing their flights.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the situation was “unacceptable and not good enough”.

Government ministers have told DAA that it must report back by tomorrow morning on solutions that can be put in place at Dublin Airport in advance of this bank holiday weekend.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton met with CEO Dalton Philips and his management team this morning where they expressed their immense disappointment and frustration at the unacceptable scenes at Dublin airport over the weekend.

In a statement following the meeting, the ministers said they have asked the DAA to consider all options that can be taken in immediate and medium term to resolve this matter.

Daily meetings will also be held at ministerial level with DAA until the difficulties persisting at the airport are satisfactorily resolved.

The statement said Minister Naughton emphasised that it is the responsibility of DAA to resolve these matters to the satisfaction of passengers travelling in the days and weeks ahead. 

Staffing issues

In a statement to TheJournal, the DAA said it is attempting to fill staff vacancies as quickly as possible. 

“DAA is placing no constraints on the recruitment of new security staff, and we continue to do everything in our power to ensure that this is achieved as quickly as possible.

“Significant work has been undertaken by our HR teams and indeed, by many other departments across the business, to expedite the interview and training processes, and to deploy staff to the floor of Dublin Airport.”

The statement said the airport recruited over 300 new Airport Security Officers (ASUs), with 150 ASUs recruited since the end of April alone.

“In addition, we expect to bring another ~70 ASUs onboard over the coming weeks, which will bring the total number of new ASUs to 370. It is absolutely critical to our operation that our security screening processes run as seamlessly and efficiently as possible into the future. We intend to continue to recruit at this accelerated pace for as long as there is a requirement for us to do so,” the statement read.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s News at One, Minister of State for International Transport Hildegarde Naughton attributed the problem to “staffing and resources”.  

“What happened at the weekend is just absolutely not acceptable, where you have young children, elderly people, in queues for hours. You would want to be in your full health to be able to go through what passengers did this weekend,” Naughton said.

“Tomorrow morning, I am instructing the DAA to have that action plan set out for myself and Minister Ryan in relation to dealing with this. We were very clear at our meeting this morning that this cannot happen again.” 

DUBLIN AIRPORT QUEUES _6705 People queuing outside Dublin Airport at 3pm yesterday afternoon. Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

Oireachtas committee

The Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications is set to meet at 1.30pm on Wednesday to discuss the delays and proposed solutions, where TDs and Senators will put questions to the DAA management team.

In a statement this afternoon, Cathaoirleach Kieran O’Donnell said that “what passengers travelling through Dublin Airport over the weekend had to endure was wholly unacceptable and must not happen again”.

“We need to see solutions from the DAA as to precisely how they are going to ensure that this is not repeated next weekend, during the June bank holiday,” O’Donnell said.

“Furthermore, the DAA will have to outline how they will deal with compensating all those passengers who missed their flights over the weekend.”

‘Unacceptable’

Speaking after the meeting with the DAA, Minister Eamon Ryan said what happened yesterday “was totally unacceptable”.

“You can’t have 1,000 people missing flights, you can’t have thousands of people out, queuing outside, even outside the terminal building. They [DAA] acknowledged that, they accepted it was it was a terrible failing.”

The minister said he understood that it was a combination of reasons, such as the shortage of staff and the increase in the number of people flying that caused the issues over the weekend. 

Calls to bring in the army

There have been calls to draft in members of the Defence Forces to carry out some tasks in the airport to help alleviate pressures on staff as a stop-gap while more permanent workers are hired.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne earlier today, Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson said that “one of the biggest issues working at the airport nowadays is that you have to be security-cleared before you do your training” but that “the army are already security cleared”.

“They could augment the already-trained staff there who work on the more specialised areas of security screening and could aid with that assistance,” Wilson said.

“I think if they do that now, it will help with queue management, it will help directing, it will help with patting down people as they go through security. You can’t let people go and then not – you have to plan for the required amount of staff through security at a minimum and that clearly hasn’t happened.”

However, on the same programme, Dublin Airport Media Relations Manager Grame McQueen said that “if you were to bring the army in, there’s very limited things they can do in the terminal”.

“They’d effectively be doing the same job that I was doing yesterday in the terminal. I was loading trays to help security guys who are trained. Bringing them in sounds like a great idea but there’s very limited stuff they can do,” McQueen said.

“We’re in the process of hiring 380 staff, we’re over halfway getting them on board.”

Minister Ryan said that a range of different options, such as utilising the army, have been looked at, particularly in the run up to Easter when there were concerns about the sudden spike in people travelling abroad post pandemic.

“It was felt then, and this is an operational issue for the airport, that that actually wouldn’t deliver in the key capacity areas and wouldn’t necessarily manage the issue… So I don’t believe the army coming in in this instance would overcome the immediate problem. There are other ways that the airport will have to look to to make sure they do have the capacity to cope.”

Compensation

When asked about compensation for people who have incurred costs as a result of missing flights, Ryan said it’s an issue for the Dublin Airport Authority.

“But they must know and they do know that the reputational damage to the airport and the country is very real. And that can’t be added to by them not providing what they say they will, which is proper compensation for people who lost flights,” said Ryan.

It is understood that Minister Naughton, who has special responsibility for international travel, will meet with airlines this afternoon.

The advice for when people should arrive at the airport remains 2.5 hours before a short-haul flight and up to 3.5 hours before a long-haul flight.

Cullinane says the weekend’s problems will be analysed today to see if any changes to this advice should be made. 

The queues at the airport have led to people arriving earlier for flights and DAA introduced queueing outside the terminal buildings in an attempt to control the numbers inside. 

Some airlines have been allowing passengers who missed their flight to book another flight at no extra cost, but DAA Head of Communications Kevin Cullinane said DAA will step in and reimburse passengers who have been left out of pocket.

We will recompense anyone that’s out of pocket as a result of yesterday’s queues. We’d ask them to make that known to us via an email address which is: customerexperience@dublinairport.com

“We will obviously ensure that anyone who’s out of pocket as a result of being discommoded yesterday is reimbursed as quickly as possible.”

Arrivals

On the other side of the airport, one woman, describing the difficulty she and friends had on return to Dublin airport this weekend, said they had a flight due to arrive at 12.15 but was delayed leaving Malaga by an hour.

“Security and passport control was a dream in Malaga, [we] got through both very quickly,” she said.

“Once we arrived in Dublin, already late, we were informed by the cabin crew that there was an issue waiting to find out what stand the plane should go to.

“Finally we did end up at the stand but the doors remained closed as there was no staff to open the gate for us. We spent 30 mins on the plane waiting.”

When they disembarked, the woman noticed there were no ground crew present unloading bags.

“I asked the cabin crew about this and she had been given no information from the airport about how long it would take,” she said.

“The arrivals hall was utter bedlam, absolutely packed with people and bags stacked everywhere, impossible to navigate through.”

With reporting by Christina Finn, Lauren Boland and Press Association

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