Dublin Airport capacity issues could hurt expansion - Walsh
Aer Lingus owner says airline will not expand here if airport does not tackle bottlenecks
Aer Lingus is weighing adding another service to the US in 2017
Bottlenecks at Dublin Airport could threaten its long-term expansion plans, according to the chief executive of Aer Lingus’s owner, Willie Walsh.
The airport expects to beat 2015’s record of 25 million passengers this year but its success is putting pressure on aircraft parking and taxi-ways, leading to delays for disembarking passengers.
Mr Walsh, chief executive International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), owner of Aer Lingus and British Airways, said that the company would not expand its services from Dublin if the infrastructure was not there to support it.
Aer Lingus is launching three new transatlantic routes this year, to LA, Newark New Jersey and Hartford Connecticut, and is weighing adding another service to the US in 2017.
However, Mr Walsh warned that the airline would not accelerate its growth plans if Dublin does not tackle the constraints. “We cannot keep putting aircraft there if we have nowhere to park them,” he said.
The airport plans to build a bus terminus at terminal two, but Mr Walsh believes that there are cheaper and more efficient ways of tackling the problem, including covered walkways and building new aircraft stands.
He argued that Aer LIngus and British Airways customers do not want to be bussed from their craft. “I doubt any airline is saying to Dublin Airport Authority can you build us a bus terminal please?,” he said.
IAG and Ryanair support Dublin’s plans to build a new runway, although they have expressed doubts about the proposed €320 million cost as the original figure was meant to be €250 million.
Mr Walsh agreed that the new runway is needed but stressed that it would have no impact on the current problems, which he warned that the airport needs to tackle quickly if it is to fulfil its ambitions to develop a hub for transatlantic flights.
He was speaking following the inaugural British Airways flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to US tech capitol San Jose in California, the first direct European service to the American city.
New transatlantic route
Mr Walsh indicated that Aer Lingus could add a new US destination next year and that it is also considering boosting capacity on some of its existing services.
IAG bought the Irish airline to expand the group’s overall transatlantic business by feeding passengers to its north American flights from Dublin and Shannon.
The deal was done nine months after the group first approached Aer Lingus in December 2014 and included commitments on maintaining the Irish airline’s links to Heathrow.
It was only after those terms were agreed that the Government parted with its 25 per cent stake in the airline.
Dublin-born Mr Walsh, who is a former chief executive of Aer Lingus, acknowledged that the complex politics involved in the takeover process could have forced a non-Irish chief executive to walk away from the transaction. “The fact that I’m Irish did help,” he said.