Time is running out for anyone seeking to challenge a controversial ruling by regulators to cut Dublin Airport's passenger charges to €7.87 a head, the Department of Transport warned on Monday.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), which sets the fees Dublin Airport charges airlines for passengers, ruled in October that the airport's owner, the Dublin Airport Authority, should cut the levy to an average of €7.87 a passenger over the five years to 2024.
State-owned DAA confirmed recently that it has appealed the ruling. The company has asked Minister for Transport Shane Ross to appoint an appeal panel to consider its challenge.
Mr Ross’s department warned the closing date for appeals to the ruling was approaching on January 24th.
Its statement noted that anyone seeking to have an appeal panel established should do so in writing to the Minister by close of business on that date.
The law governing the setting of Dublin Airport’s charges allows DAA, airlines, cargo operators, anyone providing goods and services there, and passengers, to challenge the commission’s rulings.
Ryanair, which described the commission's decision as disappointing as it did not cut charges by more, would not comment on whether it would appeal the ruling. Aer Lingus has said that it supports the regulator's finding.
Appeals can take several months. The CAR's Cathy Mannion explained in October that the new charges would apply while any challenge was under way.
As a consequence, the fees the airport charges airlines fell this month in line with the commission’s ruling.
Should DAA’s challenge succeed, and the appeal panel increase the charges, airlines would have to pay the airport company the difference between the higher and lower fees for the passengers they carried while the appeal was under way. Carriers would also face higher passenger levies from the point at which the panel ruled.
Airlines will pay €7.50 a head this year and next, but the figure will rise to €7.88 in 2022, €8.12 in 2023 and €8.32 in 2024.
DAA maintains that it cannot pay for a planned €2 billion expansion of Dublin Airport, needed to allow it handle up to 40 million passengers a year by 2030, if the charges are cut.
It had wanted to be allowed keep the charges at €9.65 a head, the maximum DAA was allowed charge in 2018, over the next five years to allow it raise the cash needed for the work.
The company maintained that airlines supported this when DAA put it to them in 2018. However, both Aer Lingus and Ryanair, its biggest customers, subsequently agreed that the levy should be cut when the CAR initially proposed reducing the charge in May last year.