Regulators should not hit airlines with extra costs while inflation threatens their Covid recovery, Ryanair warns in a response to plans to boost Dublin Airport passenger charges.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) proposes increasing Dublin Airport’s passenger charges from a current cap of €8.24 to an average of €8.52 between now and 2026.
However, Ryanair, the airport’s biggest airline customer, warns that it would be “unacceptable” for CAR to add to airlines’ costs while recovery remains fragile, “not least given the challenges of rising fuel costs and inflation driven by the Ukraine conflict”.
Ryanair argues that over two previous reviews of the charges, the regulator made airlines cover an estimated €200 million to €220 million share of Dublin Airport’s pandemic losses.
However, the airline welcomes the fact that the CAR will not transfer further amounts of Dublin Airport’s pandemic losses to airlines.
The commission regulates how much Dublin Airport can charge airlines for each passenger using the airport.
Almost two years of Government Covid curbs prompted the CAR to review Dublin’s current charges, something it would not have done until 2024 had the pandemic not struck.
DAA, Dublin Airport’s owner, wants the levy increased to a maximum of €14.77 per passenger by 2026, to finance an expansion that will allow it handle a predicted 40 million passengers a-year by the end of the decade.
In its response, DAA warns that the commission’s “current pricing proposals do not provide sufficient funds for Dublin Airport to return to resilient operation post Covid-19.”
The commission maintains that its plan will allow DAA spend €2.9 billion on preparing Dublin for its expected growth.
Part of the plan involves further developing Dublin as a European-North American hub, which is part of national aviation policy.
However, Aer Lingus, warns that the timing of DAA’s proposals indicates that it could take at least 15 years to meet its aims and tackle problems that Dublin Airport first acknowledged in 2017.
“This is of national concern given the scale of economic benefits of the Dublin hub for Ireland — including more than 30,000 new jobs and additional €20 billion to €25 billion to the Irish economy over 15 years,” says Aer Lingus.
In a letter to the CAR, accompanying Ryanair’s submissions, Jason McGuinness, the airline’s director of commercial, declares that Dublin has consistently been one of Europe’s worst-performing airports this year.
He maintains that airlines and passengers suffered “huge delays, missed flights and unsanitary conditions.”
Around 1,400 people missed flights over the last weekend in May as security queues built up in Dublin Airport.
Mr McGuinness accuses the CAR of wishing to reward DAA’s mismanagement with unjustified passenger charge increases of potentially more than 40 per cent.
DAA’s interim chief executive, Catherine Gubbins, responded that as Covid restrictions eased, passenger numbers at Dublin and Cork airports soared to 13 million in the first half of this year, from just 1.1 million over the same period in 2021.
Ms Gubbins maintained that the company, its staff and airline customers, successfully tackled operational problems that followed the surge in travel,
“This was without having to resort to significant cuts in flights and capacity at Dublin and Cork airports this summer,” she said.
European airports including Amsterdam Schiphol and Heathrow cut flights and limited passenger numbers over the summer.
The CAR will decide finally on Dublin Airport’s charges later this year, following its consultation with DAA, the airlines and other interested parties.