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Ireland’s reputation now reeling in Dublin Airport chaos

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Chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport. Photo: Colin Keegan

The chaos at Dublin Airport this summer is causing passengers to reassess holiday plans, adding to a widespread sense of frustration and anxiety over the escalating cost of living, ahead of an anticipated difficult autumn and winter ahead.

A spike in Covid cases is being blamed for the cancellation of more than 30 flights into and out of the airport on Friday and yesterday, although there is a wider view that staff shortages as a result of lay-offs during earlier waves of the pandemic remain at the root of the problem.

While travel disruption is not confined to Dublin Airport — it is an international issue — that fact does not hugely mitigate the damage being done to the country’s reputation as a result of the upheaval.

One of the main baggage handlers at the airport has had to apologise for thousands of missing bags, many belonging to international tourists.

Belatedly, the Government has suggested Army personnel could be drafted in to the airport to assist security staff — a proposal which is strongly supported by the public according to our opinion poll today.

That poll also reveals a large increase in the numbers considering changing their foreign holiday plans as a result of the reports emanating daily from the airport. Their frustration is exacerbated by the widespread view that Irish hotels are unjustifiably increasing prices for those intending to holiday at home instead.

There are understandable concerns among both Defence Forces personnel and security staff at the airport at the prospect of the Army being drafted in to help. The problems at Dublin Airport really should have been anticipated by the airport authority, airlines, and indeed the Department of Transport before now.

As columnist Shane Ross points out today, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary did indeed anticipate post-Covid issues and called some time ago for Army personnel to be drafted in.

Ryanair has been virtually the only major carrier in Europe to avoid staff shortage disruption as it did not sack large numbers of employees when Covid struck. That said, Mr O’Leary is not critical of competitor airlines such as Aer Lingus. “Covid has been unbelievably difficult to manage your way through,” he has said previously.

Fair enough, but the ongoing disruption at the airport remains damaging to the country’s reputation. Airport and airline staff are working flat out. The Government must set out strict criteria for the temporary deployment of Army personnel to assist in the airport, including on pay rates.

There is also a case to be made for greater use of Cork and Shannon airports, which would lift the burden on Dublin. The “muddle through” sense that is developing at the country’s main airport is unacceptable.

The public has endured a torrid time during two years of the Covid pandemic and many have looked forward to the return of international travel. The cost-of-living crisis is also taking its toll on the public’s morale.

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Now that a window has opened to allow people some respite ahead of winter and the predicted further increases in the cost of air travel in the years ahead, greater effort must be made at Dublin Airport to give the public some reprieve this summer.


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