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Dublin Airport

Ryanair says Dublin Airport could face 'mass cancellations' if night-time flights are restricted

Fingal County Council has ordered DAA to restrict the number of flights between 11pm and 7am.

LAST UPDATE | 4 Aug 2023

RYANAIR HAS SAID there could be “mass cancellations” at Dublin Airport due to orders from Fingal County Council to reduce the number of late-night flights.

The council has issued an enforcement order on DAA, which operates Dublin Airport, to reduce the number of night flights at Dublin Airport to a maximum of 65 between 11pm and 7am.

In a statement this morning, Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson said Transport Minister Eamon Ryan “must instruct Fingal County Council to withdraw their stupid enforcement notice and instead require that this night time restriction period be slightly modified from 11pm – 7pm to 12am to 6am”.

“This measure will still reduce night time noise at Dublin Airport … to satisfy the needs of Fingal County Council,” Wilson said.

He added that this “sensible solution” balances the needs of Irish air travel and its connectivity to Europe, with the complaints from the locals making complaints about the airport’s noise. 

‘Mass cancellations’

The notice, which was issued on 28 July, states that the airport operator has six weeks to comply with it.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said today that there could be “mass cancellations” if the changes are made.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s News at One, he said flights leaving at 6am could not be moved to 7am because there were no available slots.

“If you really want to reduce between midnight & 6am cancel the cargo flights, they’re the ones that are making most of the noise,” he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended Fingal County Council’s decision to issue the enforcement order.

Varadkar also said he did not think there would ultimately be any disruption to flights, as he expressed confidence a resolution would be found to the issue.

Speaking to reporters in Dunleer, Co Louth, he said: “Fingal County Council has to enforce the law. And if planning conditions have been breached, well, then Fingal County Council has no choice but to enforce the law, so I don’t criticise the council for doing its job.

“But I think there’s a number of further steps that are yet to play out in this regard. There is an appeal before An Bord Pleanála (planning appeals body) at the moment and I think there’s also likely to be a court case.

“So I don’t anticipate that there will be disruption to people’s flights.

“If people are worried about their flights in the next few weeks, whether it’s for holidays, or visiting relatives or businesses, I don’t think they need to be because this will play out both in An Bord Pleanála and in the courts. But ultimately, Fingal County Council has to enforce the existing planning permission and they are right to do so.”

Planning permission

Fingal County Council said the notice comes following complaints about night time flights at the airport.

The Planning Authority carried out an investigation into alleged breaches of Condition 5 of the planning permission for the North Runway at Dublin Airport.

When Dublin Airport was granted approval for the new runway in 2007, Condition 5 was put in place to cap the number of flights between 11pm and 7am could not exceed 65.

It was put in place to control the frequency of night flights at the airport “so as to protect residential amenity having regard to the information submitted concerning future night time use of the existing parallel”.

The council issued the notice after carrying out the investigation. It requires daa to reduce the number of flights within six weeks, as well as to pay the council €350 for costs and expenses incurred by it in relation to the investigation.

The notice states that if DAA does not comply within six weeks, or an extended period of six months if it is granted by the council, then it may “enter on the land and take such steps, including the removal, demolition or alteration of any structure, and may recover any expenses reasonably incurred by them in that behalf”. 

It states that DAA may also be guilty of an offence if it fails to comply with the notice.

‘Matter for the DAA’

In a statement to The Journal, the Department of Transport said Eamon Ryan and the Department are aware of the enforcement action against the DAA.

The Department said planning regulations fall within the operational responsibility of the daa. 

“It is a matter for DAA as the airport operator and the party to whom the enforcement notice is addressed to consider the actions it needs to take,” a spokesperson said. 

“As this is a planning matter, it is not appropriate for the Minister to intervene. However, the Department will liaise closely with daa and the IAA (Irish Aviation Authority) in relation to the proposed response to the enforcement action,” they said. 

The Department said the role of the IAA is also relevant as it is the body responsible for discharging Ireland’s obligations in regard to European rules governing the allocation of slots at airports. 

In a statement, DAA said it was “disappointed” by the decision and that it had only been given six weeks to limit flights. 

It said it comes “in the middle of peak summer season”. 

The statement called on Fingal County Council to suspend the “overly onerous conditions” or give at least the six months that the council has acknowledged is available under its planning laws.

“This would avoid any needless disruption to peoples’ travel plans and airlines’ cargo operations,” it said.

DAA CEO Kenny Jacobs said the enforcement notice would mean the number of night flights across Dublin Airport’s two runways would be lower than before North Runway opened.

“It would be like increasing the number of seats in Croke Park to 100,000 but cutting the capacity for games to 50,000. It makes no sense, and the travelling public deserves better,” he said.

He said Fingal County Council’s decision would be “bad for the Irish consumer, bad for the Irish economy, bad for Ireland’s connectivity with the world and bad for the effective operation of Dublin Airport”.

Speaking to The Journal earlier this week, Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell said he is “very pleased” with the decision to serve the notice.

“The daa have been very much aware for nine months now, possibly even a year, that their nighttime use was potentially going to exceed the 65 movements per night,” he said.

“Personally I’m very pleased that the local authority has made this decision following extensive research into the matter. The daa must adhere to the law because it’s not just about the commercial activities of the airport, it’s also about people’s capacity to live a normal, healthy life in the vicinity of the airport without fear of disruption and disturbed sleep.”

Fingal County Council and the Department of Transport have been contacted for comment. 

With reporting by Press Association, Jane Moore and Emer Moreau

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