Significant job cuts at Dublin Airport and Cork Airport will have to be quickly implemented as the gateways face a collapse in passenger traffic due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the chief executive of the DAA has warned staff today.
It's likely that hundreds of people will lose their jobs.
Dalton Philips also said that virtually all capital projects are now being reviewed, with the exception of the new €320m runway at Dublin Airport, new mandatory baggage screening facilities and other core maintenance schemes.
The CEO warned that it could be “several years” before passenger traffic at the gateways is back at levels seen in 2019, when a total of 35.5 million people travelled through the airports. Dublin Airport accounted for 32.9 million of those.
In a letter to DAA staff seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Philips said the combined traffic at the two airports might be as low as 21 million passengers in 2021.
“Passenger numbers at our Irish airports business are currently down 99pc compared to the same time last year,” he said. “The outlook for the rest of this year remains bleak.”
Mr Philips added: “We are looking at all options, but to give you a sense of the scale of the issue that we are facing, when Dublin and Cork airports last welcomed 21 million passengers per year, we had between 750 and 1,000 fewer employees in the business,” he said.
Dublin Airport last saw its passenger numbers collapse during the financial crisis. It handled 18.4 million passengers in 2010, which was 22pc lower than in 2008.
The DAA currently employs about 3,300 people in Ireland, with more working at its Aer Rianta International unit.
“This economic crisis is serious, and we need to take action quickly, but we will work collaboratively with you and staff representatives to achieve the necessary cost savings,” Mr Philips said. “This inevitably will involve a substantial re-sizing of our business, new ways of working and significantly fewer employees. It is likely that reductions in staffing will have to apply throughout the business.”
He added: “I am acutely aware that this is dreadful news and I wish that we didn’t find ourselves in this terrible position. This economic crisis is not of our making, or of your making; it is due to Covid-19 and the fallout from the global pandemic.
“We will now work directly with you and with staff representatives over the coming weeks to safeguard as many jobs as possible and to protect our business for the future,” said Mr Philips.
The airport boss warned that the DAA must make savings “very quickly” and cannot continue with its current levels of cost.
Staff are currently on a four-day week until June 20, and a decision still has to be made about what will happen after that date.
Staff will be informed of the details of a voluntary severance scheme next week.
“We are looking at all options to achieve cost reductions, and there are also likely to be other alternatives available for employees, such as career breaks and reduced hours working,” said Mr Philips.
“The nature of the entire aviation business is also likely to change significantly due to Covid-19,” he added. “ It is essential that we maintain a safe and secure workplace for you and your colleagues, and also for our passengers. Passengers will want reassurance on issues such as health, social distancing and cleanliness when travelling. The passenger journey will fundamentally change. This means how most of us will work in the future will be radically different from how we used to work before Covid-19.”
He said that any recovery in air traffic is likely to be patchy and that current work practices that prevent staff moving to work between T1 and T2 “will have to fall away”.
“Rosters will be simplified and realigned to be cross company, facilitating team working and removing inefficiencies,” he said.
A spokesman for the DAA said: “DAA will now engage with its employees and staff representatives in relation to the cost reduction measures required to address the economic crisis that is affecting businesses throughout the aviation sector. We are not making any further public comment at this time.”