DAA boss Dalton Philips says company is ‘working hard’ to avoid flight limits
THE chief executive of the DAA, the semi-State company that operates Dublin and Cork airports, has said there could be risk of a flight cap at the capital’s gateway if it is unable to cope with a surge in passenger numbers.
Due to staffing shortages, some other airports in Europe – including London’s Gatwick and Amsterdam’s Schiphol - have restricted the number of flights that airlines can operate during the peak summer season.
“We are working hard to avoid the types of restrictive measures introduced in many international airports over recent weeks, albeit risks remain, and we continue to monitor developments on an hourly basis,” said DAA chief executive Dalton Philips today.
Passengers at Dublin Airport experienced huge security screening delays last month, with hundreds of flyers missing flights as a result.
Mr Philips was speaking today as the DAA released its annual report for 2021. It made a €103m pre-exceptional loss for the year, compared to a €183m pre-exceptional loss in 2020.
The CEO said the losses racked up by the airport operator came despite more than 1,000 staff being let go during the pandemic. The Covid crisis has accounted for €387m in losses at the DAA over the past two years.
“Dublin Airport entered 2022 with significantly diminished staffing capacity, some months ahead of the steepest rise in air travel in its history,” said Mr Philips.
“Despite the Herculean efforts of DAA employees, this capacity and timing mismatch has had a regrettable impact on service delivery and quality that is being addressed at pace but will likely result in strained operations through the coming busy, summer months,” he added.
Mr Philips said that the DAA continues to hire new security officers, open more security lanes and improve its queue management systems at Dublin Airport.
He said that queue times are now below 45 minutes for most passengers, “but vulnerabilities remain”.
Passengers have experienced issues with baggage handling at Dublin Airport, with some waiting for hours at the weekend for bags.
Bags that were due to be delivered to passengers weeks and even months ago also appear to have been left stranded in the airport’s baggage hall.
Baggage is not handled by the DAA but by third-party providers.
Aer Lingus also cancelled flights at the weekend, due to the impact of Covid-related absences and air traffic control strikes in Europe. That caused chaos for passengers who had already travelled to Dublin Airport to catch their flights.
“Though Dublin Airport expects to have doubled its security screening staff to 920 staff over the coming weeks, challenges remain,” conceded Mr Philips.
He added: “Peak volumes after two years of domestic vacationing, alongside staffing challenges facing the airlines and other airport partners that operate at Dublin Airport across check-in, baggage handling, and retail and hospitality services, are impacting customer experience, something [the] DAA is working hard to address in collaboration with our aviation partners and airlines.”
The DAA’s turnover last year jumped 11pc to €387m as pandemic-related restrictions started to ease and passengers were able to start flying again.