Dublin Airport chaos sparks calls for action from Government

3 June 2022

The main political story of the week has been the delays at Dublin Airport seen last weekend. The nation’s main airport saw massive crowds gathering outside the terminal building with over 1,000 passengers missing flights in one day.

The core issue at the airport remains under-staffing, with security and check-in services proving to be the key bottlenecks for passengers. As a result, there have been several previous incidents of large crowds and long waiting times in the airport in recent weeks. 

Dublin Airport is not alone with these issues, as Amsterdam Schiphol, Manchester and Malaga Airports are all suffering similar severe staff shortages after being forced to radically downsize their workforces due to the pandemic and their travel restrictions. At the peak of the pandemic, airports and airlines across Europe made roughly 191,000 aviation workers redundant. 

Speaking of the scenes at Dublin Airport, Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State at the Department of Transport with special responsibility for International and Road Transport and Logistics, said that she had received reassurances from airport management last week that the situation was “under control,” while Minister of State in the Department of Finance, Seán Fleming, argued that the chaos at the  airport is a “reflection of bad management, full stop.” 

Ramping up his criticisms, the Mr. Fleming continued questioning “why the daa (Dublin Airport Authority) chose to let so many people go when there was Government support to keep them on the payroll during that period, I find inexplicable.”

Also on Wednesday Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil that the daa must ensure that serious delays at Dublin Airport “do not happen again, and that there is an onus on the daa to organise its human resources to develop the capacities required.” The Taoiseach apparently severely criticised the daa at a private Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting.

This weekend, Fianna Fáil will host the annual ALDE party congress of its pan-European affiliate in Dublin. With more than 1000 representatives from 70 national parties, as well as a number of European Prime Ministers expected to come to Dublin, senior Fianna Fáil figures are worried about the reputational damage from the chaotic scenes at the airport.  

On Wednesday, the airport released a plan to tackle the problems. The plan foresees more than 40 additional security personnel screening a 10% increase compared to last weekend, and out-of-terminal holding areas for passengers arriving early. Additional security staff have been secured from Cork Airport, and the daa will introduce incentives for staff to take up additional hours. 

The airport faces a stern test this coming bank holiday weekend and it remains to be seen whether these measures will be enough.