Friday 23 March 2018

IAG says Dublin Airport will lose business without shake-up

Aer Lingus is likely to launch one new transatlantic route from Dublin in time for summer 2017
Aer Lingus is likely to launch one new transatlantic route from Dublin in time for summer 2017

John Mulligan in San Jose

The expansion of Aer Lingus' transatlantic services will be slowed if Dublin Airport doesn't deliver infrastructure improvements to alleviate aircraft congestion there, IAG boss Willie Walsh has warned.

"The business is there. It would be a shame to lose out on the opportunity to expand the business simply because the infrastructure isn't in place," said Mr Walsh.

He said Aer Lingus is likely to launch at least one new transatlantic route from Dublin in time for summer 2017, as well as possible capacity increases on existing routes, but said expansion plans are tempered by what he said are infrastructure issues.

"You can't keep putting aircraft in there," he said, conceding that Aer Lingus would probably have planned more expansion at Dublin for 2017 if there were no aircraft congestion issues. It's launching three transatlantic routes this year, to LA, Newark and Hartford.

"We do have concerns about whether Dublin can operate in its current form beyond 2017," said Mr Walsh. "We can't keep accelerating our plans as there is a limit as to how much capacity we can put in there in the short to medium term.

"We're ambitious about Dublin, but we've got to be realistic. If the infrastructure doesn't support our plans, well then we can't accelerate them. And it's not a runway issue." He said the problem is with a lack of taxiways and aircraft parking. The DAA has previously insisted it is addressing issues that may have caused congestion at peak times.

Dublin Airport handled just over 25 million passengers last year and the figure could easily reach over 27 million this year.

Mr Walsh claimed "there is a risk" that the airport becomes a victim of its success. "The risk is they'd be complacent and that they focus on the glory projects rather than focusing on the things that need to get done to ensure Dublin can be efficient."

He said IAG's strategy of using Dublin as a feeder hub could also be threatened. "Dublin has been successful as an accidental hub. As soon as it stops working well, people will look elsewhere."

Mr Walsh said Aer Lingus would not want to use any remote parking solutions at Terminal 2 that would involve passengers being bussed between aircraft and the building. "We don't want buses. They should be the last choice."

But a Dublin Airport spokesman said that the airport "is continually investing to improve and maintain its airfield and passenger facilities as its passenger traffic continues to expand.

"It consults regularly with its airline customers to understand their needs as their business requirements evolve," he added.

The DAA has applied for planning permission for a bus facility at T2 to shuttle passengers to and from aircraft at remote stands. But the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) has objected, claiming that it's "universally accepted" that Terminal 2's pier four lacks sufficient aircraft stands.

"We deem this planning application to be yet another 'band aid' development by the original architects of T2," IALPA told Fingal County Council last month.

Irish Independent

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