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Queues at Dublin Airport. Eamonn Farrell
up up and queue

There will have to be 'consequences' if DAA airport plan fails, warns minister

Dublin Airport Authority says it is ‘very, very confident’ passengers will not miss flights this weekend.

LAST UPDATE | 2 Jun 2022

IF DUBLIN AIRPORT Authority (DAA) fails in their plan to sort out the queues at Dublin Airport and more people miss their flights “there will have to be consequences”, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has said. 

Speaking to reporters at Trinity College today, he said he is “not in that space right now”, stating that the DAA’s plan announced yesterday appears “robust”. 

DAA has said it is “very, very confident” that passengers will not miss their flights this weekend. 

Harris said “buck stops with the DAA”, stating:

“I think a lot of people in this country are getting fed up of senior management hiding behind politicians when it comes to actually doing their job. People are paid to do services, the very simple job in DAA – get people on planes in time for their flight to take off. That’s the job. 

“I’m not suggesting it hasn’t been challenging, of course it has, not just in Ireland, but across Europe, we’ve seen the increase in the number of people through airports significantly go up. The responsibility and the buck stops with the management a DAA and making sure that they honour their commitment,” he said. 

Harris said the DAA plan looks “sensible”, however he said the implementation of the plan will be key.

“It’s a plan that involves proper triaging of people at the airport and that has to be done, by the way, in a respectful and dignified way. This idea of leaving people, particularly people with care needs, older people, like that’s not, pardon the pun, fly,” said the minister.

“The buck stops here with the DAA management. People in this country are paid, they are paid good salaries to do good jobs, they need to get on with it,” he said.

DAA

Graeme McQueen, the company’s head of media relations, also said this morning that the holding pen for early arrivals will only be used should the need arise.

“We’re very, very confident in the operation that we’ve got in place for this weekend that we’re going to get everyone through and that there will be no missed flights,” he said. 

McQueen, speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland, said that early arrivals to the airport were increasing the sizes of queues at the embattled airport. 

“So what we’re trying to do here is get the flow of passengers back to the way we want it so that we can get people through in a nice orderly manner.

“So what we’ve said yesterday is that there’s lots of talk about these holding zones these will only kick in if we absolutely have to, and will only affect people who’ve arrived really really early because the message from others.

“You don’t have to arrive at those times before your short haul and long haul flights and we will get you through,” he said.

Yesterday DAA CEO Dalton Philips had earlier apologised to passengers who missed flights due to long queues at the airport on Sunday and said he had “high confidence” that the scenes would not be repeated this weekend

McQueen said that the airport’s managers were confident that they could get passengers through security on time. 

“I would like to put passengers who are flying this weekend at ease a little bit like these numbers that we’re dealing with this weekend, I know we fell down last weekend.

“But in recent months these these numbers we’re dealing with this weekend in terms of departures. They’re what we’ve been dealing with through April and May so we’re confident we can get everyone through,” he said. 

The company has adjusted rostering of security staff and said that “all being well things should move well”.

McQueen also sought to reassure passengers that they would only use holding pens as a last resort.

“In terms of people arriving you know, we just ask them to work with the team on the ground speak to people to the pink and purple vests who are going to be there in mass numbers and they will work with you to make sure you get through the terminal. We’re looking at under an hour.

“I’m looking at the app earlier this morning. Today we are dealing with about 46,000 passengers going out. Those are big numbers not far off what we’re going to see over the next four days. So we’re getting everyone through in terminal one at the moment in less than half an hour which is really really good,” he added. 

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.

Following on from this week’s controversy, Minister Eamon Ryan faced accusations in the Dail today that he had been “asleep at the wheel” over the issue. 

Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty told Ryan: “Everyone knew that aviation would rebound once the pandemic subsided, with pent-up demand for international travel, such as it is. Everyone, minister, except yourself and the DAA.”

The Donegal TD said he was “not convinced” by the plans announced by the DAA to address the problem and said that the issue was ultimately the responsibility of the Department of Transport.

He said: “Your Government can’t get an international airport to function properly on your watch. What does it say to the tourism sector that relies on Dublin Airport to function properly and provide a service that tourists can depend on?

“The fact that the airport plans to function with security staff levels at 70% of pre-pandemic levels is not acceptable.

“Now, you’ve been unable to give an assurance that we won’t see scenes like we did last weekend. And frankly, you’ve been asleep at the wheel minister.

“You’ve been asleep at the wheel right throughout this process, only to appear last weekend.”

Ryan, who admitted that mistakes had been made by the airport, called the scenes last weekend “inexcusable”.

With reporting by Christina Finn and Press Association

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