THE response to passenger chaos at Dublin Airport should bring about a wider aviation policy response rather than a short-term fix.
That’s the view of Limerick Chamber who have called on Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton to establish a working group to review National Aviation policy.
The Chamber states that it has now been firmly established that the approach to aviation in Ireland is not serving the public, the airports, the regions or State well.
Chamber chief executive Dee Ryan said that if anything is to come from the chaotic scenes at Dublin Airport, it must be to highlight the need for a new aviation policy that finally makes Dublin Airport accountable to the wider interests of the State and not just its pursuit of profits.
She said that the new aviation policy must be aimed at developing incentives to drive passenger growth at other Irish airports, which would be in the best interest of balanced regional development.
“What happened last weekend was a direct result of not managing Dublin Airport growth over the past two decades. The laissez-faire approach of the State has allowed Dublin Airport grow to unnecessary scale,” Ms Ryan explained.
“It’s as if the Department of Transport has been the downtown office of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and has basically allowed it to do what it wanted. Regrettably one of the hallmarks of Dublin Airport’s expansion has been the ruthless pursuit of passenger growth at the expense of other Irish airports and regions.
“The figures speak for themselves. Between January 2013 and December 2019, passenger growth at Cork Airport was 250,000, while Shannon grew by 300,000. During that same period, Dublin Airport grew passenger numbers by 13.8 million.
“In a year, when Ireland got one million new passengers, 960,000 of those would be for Dublin and 40,000 for our other airports. That is simply not sustainable. It is not possible for other airports to grow when the dominant one is winning 96 per cent of all new passengers into Ireland.”
Ms Ryan said that Limerick Chamber’s Copenhagen Economics report of 2019 noted that in other EU countries where there was an over-concentration on one airport, steps were taken by governments to address the issue and push connectivity to regional airports.
And while a short-term fix was needed to make sure there is not a repeat this summer of last weekend’s events and the associated international reputational damage, the crisis could not be allowed pass without dealing with the underlying problem.
“Perhaps half or more of the passengers flying out of Ireland are travelling from the regions, so it also flies in the face of our efforts to tackle climate change for would-be passengers to be spending so much time on our roads. It also flouts the Irish Governments ‘Project Ireland 2040’ plan,” Ms Ryan declared .
“I have written to Ministers Ryan and Naughton and asked for the establishment of a review group to look at Irish aviation policy because Dublin Airport’s market share in Ireland is so out of sync with EU norms.
“What we need is clear policy to make sure Dublin’s monopoly is broken, put passengers and the public first and, with that, we will see growth at other airports and in those regions,” she added.