Dublin Airport among top 10 best performing airports in Europe, according to poll

Former Aer Lingus boss Willie Walsh criticises Heathrow Airport and British transport minister

Dublin Airport is the fourth best in Europe for limiting cancellations and delays, according to a recent snapshot poll. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Dublin Airport is the fourth best in Europe for limiting cancellations and delays, despite recent high-profile issues with staff shortages at security and baggage check-in, according to a recent snapshot poll. Hubs including Amsterdam and Brussels are on a list of the region’s worst performers.

The Irish gateway has been under fire for delays and queues this summer, although its owner, DAA, maintains that steps it has taken since the beginning of June have improved performance there.

A poll by US online travel agency, Hopper, named Dublin as number four in Europe, with 15 per cent of flights delayed and 1.6 per cent of journeys cancelled.

The same company named Brussels as Europe’s worst performer, with almost three-quarters of flights delayed and one in 40 cancelled.

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Frankfurt in Germany and Amsterdam Schiphol, both hubs used by travellers to and from Ireland, also featured on a league table of airports to be avoided.

The German airport ranked second with 68 per cent of departures held up and 7.8 per cent cancelled, while the Dutch hub was at number eight, with 61 per cent delays and one in 20 axed.

Heathrow, whose recent decision to limit passengers to 100,000 a day forced Aer Lingus to scrap some of its services from there, did not make it on Hopper’s worst performers’ list.

DAA has maintained that it will try to avoid steps taken by many airports, including Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol, to demand that airlines cancel some flights to allow them to cope with bottlenecks that have built up as holidaymakers returned to flying in their millions this summer.

Airlines flying from Dublin have cancelled flights in recent weeks, but all have blamed problems at other destinations, including strikes, their own internal issues or sickness among crews for scrapping individual services.

Hopper’s data covers the middle of last week. It ranked Milan Bergamo, used by Irish group Ryanair, as the top performer, with just three out of 100 flights delayed and 1 per cent cancelled, as the best performer. Gran Canaria Airport, popular with Irish holidaymakers, ranked second best with 8 per cent delayed and 0.3 per cent cancelled.

Alicante and Malaga airports, both served by multiple airlines from Ireland, also featured on the top 10.

According to news agency Bloomberg, which published some of the figures, Europe’s larger airports are performing worst, while those with lower volumes of flights are managing better.

Dublin has been handling about 55,000 passengers a day in recent weeks.

Irishman Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, acknowledged that the rebound of travel from Covid curbs had caught some airlines and airports by surprise, but argued they were adjusting.

“People will have greater certainty as we go through the rest of the year in relation to the flights that will be operating,” he said.

Mr Walsh, former chief executive of Aer Lingus owner International Airlines Group, and one of aviation’s best-known figures, dubbed British politician Grant Shapps “the worst transport secretary” he had dealt with in 20 years.

Speaking to TV station Al Jazeera, Mr Walsh, said politicians such as Mr Shapps were quick to criticise airlines to get easy headlines, but had forgotten that air travel was operating at just a fraction of normal as recently as the first quarter of this year.

He praised Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority for “significantly tempering” Heathrow’s recent call for a “60-70-80 per cent” increase in its charges.

“We need a strong economic regulator who can step in and say ‘Sorry, this is evidence of an airport trying to abuse its monopoly position’ and to ensure that the consumer is protected,” he said.

Mr Walsh added that Heathrow had in effect tried to game the regulatory system to get unjustified increases in passenger charges.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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