Airlines fear Garda delays in completing security checks may hinder summer travel

Government has implemented new EU law requiring tougher background checks on those applying to work in aviation

Airlines fear Garda delays in completing extra background security checks on new workers will hinder plans to boost travel as summer holidays near.

The Government implemented a new EU law requiring tougher background checks on those applying to work in aviation on January 1st this year.

Airlines say gardaí take weeks to complete checks that should take 14 days. They warn that if the force does not devote more manpower to the process it could hit efforts to recruit new staff ahead of the busy holiday season.

Both Aer Lingus and Emerald Airlines called on Friday for the Garda to provide extra resources to ensure the checks were completed so new staff could be hired and trained.

Conor McCarthy, Emerald chief executive, said he had a “real concern” that the delays could cause the recently-founded carrier problems as it grows from one aircraft to 12 on time for summer.

He added that some applicants were waiting for their checks to complete since January 4th, with no indication whether or not they were cleared to work for the airline.

Emerald has taken on 80 pilots and a similar number of cabin crew in the last two months.

“All of them are experienced aviation people and 98 per cent of them are former holders of security passes at Dublin Airport,” he said.

Mr McCarthy pointed out that anyone who had not fully completed the security process by December 31st had to reapply and start again once the new rules came in.

Aer Lingus confirmed that it was stepping up hiring in preparation for summer.“It is therefore important that the new enhanced background check process that has been introduced has rapid turnaround times so that we are in a position to quickly train and deploy these resources as required,” said the carrier.

State company DAA, responsible for Cork and Dublin airports, predicted that airlines and airports could face "slightly longer wait times for this process to conclude given its enhanced nature".

Aviation employees working in airports’ security zones need special passes issued following a background check.

Criminal records

The new rules call for the disclosure of criminal records for the last five years, and employment and education, along with any gaps in either, over the same period.

They demand other information that authorities “may consider relevant” to someone’s suitability. Sources suggest this clause could cover applicants’ family members.

Industry figures are concerned that the problem could worsen as ground handling companies begin recruiting ahead of summer.

They also say checks on nationals of other countries, requiring the Garda to contact other police forces, could take even longer than those on Irish applicants, creating more delays.

The Department of Transport said extra checks were an important part of recruiting aviation workers. “As with any new measure, the implementing bodies are monitoring issues in this early stage of operation,” said a statement.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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