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Repeat of Dublin airport debacle must be avoided

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DAA chief executive Dalton Philips arrives at Leinster House, Dublin, to answer questions from the Oireachtas Transport Committee about the chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport last weekend. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips arrives at Leinster House, Dublin, to answer questions from the Oireachtas Transport Committee about the chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport last weekend. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips arrives at Leinster House, Dublin, to answer questions from the Oireachtas Transport Committee about the chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport last weekend. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

It is never reassuring when a CEO starts talking about “fine margins”. So when DAA boss Dalton Philips rolled out the phrase before an Oireachtas committee in the context of indefensible delays, hearts sank a little deeper.

At “peak times”, passengers could expect to wait “up to an hour”. “That’s not where we want to be,” he said. “We are in a very difficult situation. We are dealing with very fine margins.”

If the DAA is in a tough spot, it is one created entirely by itself, and if Mr Philips expected to win sympathy from a public having to second-guess if they will be able to get away on time, he will have to try a whole lot harder.

The reasons for the totally avoidable disruption are now abundantly clear. Too many staff were let go, and the DAA inexplicably completely underestimated peak holiday demand. Furthermore, it spectacularly miscalculated that it could function this year with only 70pc of staff.

Travellers are paying the price for this, and that is grossly unjust.

There is supposed to be no such thing as time to anyone enjoying a summer holiday, but those hoping to embark on one are now all too acutely aware of it.

Passengers are advised to arrive at least two-and-a-half hours before the departure of short-haul flights to Europe and at least three-and-a-half hours for long-haul flights. 

Those arriving too early will be asked to wait in a passenger “holding area”.

The lack of cheering or standing ovations for the announcement that the DAA will put in place bad weather cover, seating and toilets in said holding area was therefore understandable.

Neither was it greatly comforting to hear that passengers arriving too early for flights will be “triaged” in car parks, to organise queuing.

What might be appropriate for a busy accident and emergency department seems more than a little incongruous for a modern international transport hub.

Airport management needed more time to prepare the new plan following a meeting with government ministers on Monday.

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This was prompted by unprecedented chaos, resulting in about 1,400 passengers missing their flights.

The Government had demanded solutions before this June bank holiday weekend.

On Tuesday, Mr Philips told Transport Minister Eamon Ryan they cannot guarantee that what happened at the airport last weekend will not happen again.

Mr Ryan said the message to the DAA is that it has an obligation to do everything in its power to prevent a repeat of last Sunday’s events 

It should not be forgotten that the DAA received €97m from the Government last year.

It has been said that holidays are a bit like love anticipated with pleasure but experienced with discomfort.

But it is a bit much to be forced to experience the let down before ever having an opportunity for lift off.


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