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O'Leary appearing before the committee today.
Dublin Airport

Michael O'Leary claims return flights to Dublin could cost €1,000 at Christmas because of passenger cap

He also claimed that the Metro North would not be of great assistance to getting people to and from Dublin Airport.

RETURN FLIGHTS HOME to Ireland for Christmas may cost up to €1,000 as a result of the passenger cap at Dublin Airport, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has claimed. 

O’Leary was invited to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications with other Ryanair top officials this afternoon to give the airline’s views on passenger cap at Dublin Airport.

During his submissions O’Leary took aim at DAA – the commercial semi-state company that runs Dublin Airport – and the Irish Government, and claimed that the passenger cap was severely restricting the country’s growth and that other countries were “laughing at” Ireland.

He also strongly criticised the lack of parking options at the airport and claimed that the Metro North would not be of great assistance to getting people to and from Dublin Airport. 

A number of TDs made contributions throughout the committee, with Fianna Fáil TDs from Clare and Cork City Cathal Crowe and James O’Connor using the opportunity to encourage Ryanair to expand more into Cork and Shannon airports.

Fine Gael TD for Fingal Alan Farrell took issue with a number of the statements made by O’Leary as well as some of his fellow TDs, arguing, for example, that planning permission would be needed to construct any new car park. 

Passenger cap

Current planning permission at Dublin Airport states that the annual passenger cap, meaning the maximum number of people who are able to go through the airport each year, is set at 32 million.

O’Leary has long been very critical of the capcalled for the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to resign and has claimed that the limit has impacted his business.

As things stand, DAA – the semi-state company that runs Dublin Airport – applied for planning permission in December to expand and improve infrastructure and expand Dublin Airport. Among this was a proposal to increase the passenger capacity at the airport from 32 to 40 million passengers a year.

The planning application documentation ran to over 7,000 pages and almost 700 drawings. Fingal County Council came back to DAA in February seeking additional information.

Taking this into account, along with likely appeals and legal action, it is likely to take a lengthy period before final approval will be granted. O’Leary claimed it would take four years. However, a DAA spokesperson rejected this, saying “there is no reason” why it should take that length of time.

In the meantime, Ryanair says, the cap is constraining the growth of its company in Ireland and the growth of the country in general. O’Leary said as a result of the cap, the price of flights to Ireland could soar this Christmas.

“There is going to be a critical issue, and I would urge all the politicians here, there is going to be a massive crisis here this Christmas,” he told the Committee.

“We have applied for all our slots for this winter including the extra slots that we routinely run.

“The fares to and from Dublin this Christmas will be probably €500 one way and about €1000 return and the government and politicians are going to get the blame for it,” O’Leary said, without specifying where these flights are from.

He said this “suits me fine”.

“I mean if you cap Dublin Airport we’ll make out like bandits. I’ll make a fortune this Christmas.”

No growth in Ireland

In his opening submission, O’Leary reiterated that Ryanair is Europe’s largest and fastest growing airline, and that it will continue to grow this year, but that none of this growth would be in Ireland, as a result of the cap.

The Ryanair CEO also said that the airline had planned for four new jets to be based at Dublin Airport but that these had now gone elsewhere. He said other countries’ airports “were laughing at us” as the country was not taking the growth opportunity.

He has been highly critical of Transport Minister Eamon Ryan in the past, and again took aim at him today.

O’Leary said that Ryanair had met with the minister in March and had “put in front of him the most ambitious traffic and tourism growth initiative that this country has ever seen”, but that the airline had heard nothing back.

O’Leary said that the Government and Minister Ryan had two solutions at their disposal to get rid of the cap. The first, he said, was “emergency legislation” to amend the Planning and Development Act.

The second was for the Minister for Housing to make airports “strategic infrastructure” under the Planning and Development Strategic Infrastructure Act 2006, and issue a ministerial direction to An Bord Pleanála to scrap the passenger cap.

DAA

The Ryanair CEO was highly critical of DAA, claiming the organisation mismanages the airport, and taking issue in particular with plans by DAA to build a tunnel under 

ABP granted final permission in April for the airport to build a vehicle underpass in the middle of the airfield to connect the Eastern Campus with the West Apron. DAA has said it is important for the Airport’s future. growth. 

However, O’Leary and Ryanair have been highly critical of the project, saying it is unnecessary. A DAA spokesperson defended the runway today following O’Leary’s comments:

“The underpass is needed to support growth in the next two decades and for the safe and efficient running of the airport,” the spokesperson said

The other options that Mr O’Leary mentioned were considered but were not viable from a safety point of view and would have led to congestion and wouldn’t work at a major hub airport.

O’Leary was also highly critical of parking at Dublin Airport, and said the airport should use its land to build temporary car parks for the summer and busier months. He said this would not require planning permission, but this was again rejected by the DAA.

“If adding more parking at Dublin Airport was as simple as Mr O’Leary suggests then we would have done it already,” a spokesperson said.

“To add parking spaces, you need planning permission and the local planning laws state that no more additional parking spaces are currently allowed in the vicinity of Dublin Airport.

We have considered and continue to explore every viable option to increase the number of parking spaces available to our passengers.

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