DAA’s Dublin Airport expansion plan may outflank third terminal

It could be closer to 2030 than 2020 by the time a third terminal would be ready

State company DAA and Aer Lingus are singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to what Dublin Airport needs to sustain growth.

DAA chief executive Dalton Philips recently revealed that the airport company plans to spend €900 million expanding Dublin's capacity. Specifically by extending piers and stands, creating more room for aircraft to park and passengers to board and disembark, along with enhancing security, baggage, immigration and other facilities.

Stephen Kavanagh, chief executive of Aer Lingus, which will next year launch services from Dublin to Minneapolis in the US and Montreal in Canada – its 14th and 15th transatlantic routes – agrees that Philips's plan is what the airport needs.

Aer Lingus published a report from accountants EY showing that developing Dublin as a hub, where passengers transfer between European and transatlantic flights, could create almost 34,000 jobs and boost the economy by about €19 billion over 15 years. That would depend on DAA being allowed to press ahead with its plan.

Third terminal

Nevertheless, the prospect of a third terminal looms in the background. Minister for Transport Shane Ross commissioned a study of the Republic's airports that, among other things, must look at the viability of getting an independent player to run a third terminal at Dublin in competition with DAA.

Even if someone were to embark on this scheme today, it could be closer to 2030 than 2020 by the time we see a new terminal. First the Government would have to tender for an independent third party, then that organisation would have to get its proposals through design and planning before turning so much as a sod. Everyone, including Ross, knows our planning system does not make it easy for such projects, which take years at the best of times.

In contrast, DAA’s plan involves extending what is already there. The company’s target of 2023 for completing the work is still ambitious, but feasible. Given that customers such as Aer Lingus argue the work needs to be done quickly, this seems a better option than a third terminal, and the inevitable rows that this would engender.