Aer Lingus cancels four return flights on Monday

Covid-19 spike among crews continues to hit airline’s operations but DAA says vast majority clearing security queues in 45 minutes

Aer Lingus cancelled eight flights to and from Dublin Airport on Monday as a spike of Covid-19 infections among crews continued to hit operations.

The airline confirmed that it dropped return services in and out of Berlin, Manchester, Rome and Zurich and blamed the ongoing outbreak among staff for the decision.

These were the latest services to be grounded since the disease began affecting operations around 10 days ago. The company apologised to those passengers who were hit and pledged to reaccommodate them on the next available services as efficiently as possible.

“System pressures and ongoing issues at some airports and among third party suppliers have created considerable operational challenges which have been compounded by a significant spike in Covid cases in recent days,” the airline said.

EU rules stipulate that airlines must reaccommodate passengers on their own or others’ services or refund them when a flight is cancelled. However, as demand is stretching most operators, airlines are conceding that it is often difficult to place discommoded passengers with rivals.

Up to the end of last week, airlines cancelled more than 60 Dublin services over the previous eight days, blaming Covid-19 outbreaks, strikes, tight resources at airports and service companies, and technical issues for the problems.

At the weekend, Ryanair said it expected minimal, if any, disruption of flights to or from Spain as a consequence of cabin crew strikes called by the USO and SITCPLA unions between July 12th and 28th. However, the Irish carrier added that air traffic control strikes and airport staff shortages, which are beyond all airlines’ control, could cause some minor disruption.

Meanwhile, airport operator DAA said the situation had significantly improved for passengers going through security screening at Dublin Airport. It has changed its approach in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the scenes earlier in the summer when more than 1,000 passengers missed flights because of lengthy queues.

DAA on Monday said more than 50,000 people had been departing from Dublin daily since Friday and the wait at security for the vast majority had been less than 45 minutes. However, it is still asking passengers to arrive at the airport 2½ hours before a short-haul flight or 3½ hours prior to a long-haul departure. It said up to an additional hour should be allowed if checking in a bag.

The operator said security staffing levels are now approaching 2019 levels and are on course to have more than doubled between October and the end of this month, from 452 to 920.

Some 130 Defence Forces soldiers have been billeted in McKee Barracks in Dublin for the next six weeks in preparation for possible deployment to Dublin Airport. The soldiers will be on standby from Wednesday to assist if there are staff shortages.

The soldiers will only be deployed around the airport if there is a 20 per cent rate of absenteeism among airport security staff as a result of Covid-19. The Department of Defence said the deployment will last until August 15th and cover the busiest holiday period.

DAA confirmed that soldiers will not work in passenger facing roles, but will instead be in charge of transport in and around the perimeter of the airport, freeing up other staff to deal with the security queues. The soldiers will be trained by Shannon Airport staff seconded to Dublin Airport.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times