Dublin Airport plans to spend €900 million by 2023 on an expansion that will allow it to handle up to 40 million passengers a year. The spending will come in addition to the estimated €320 million the airport’s owner, State company Dublin Airport Authority, is on track to invest in a new runway.
DAA could next month name the main contractor to build the new runway, needed to cope with traffic at Dublin Airport, which is now at more than 30 million passengers a year. However, chief executive, Dalton Philips, warned in an interview with The Irish Times that the airport must also tackle bottlenecks at the piers where aircraft park and passengers board or disembark.
DAA intends spending €500 million on new piers and aircraft stands at the southern side of Dublin Airport and €400 million doing the same at the northern end to solve this problem.
The €900 million that DAA plans to spend on Dublin Airport will increase the number of aircraft stands from 112 to 147 – "about 30 per cent" – Mr Philips said, giving it the space to handle up to 40 million passengers annually.
He pledged that the DAA would do this without increasing passenger charges, the fees it levies on airlines to help pay for Dublin Airport's facilities, arguing this is necessary to stave off competition from rival gateways in Britain and Europe.
DAA aims to complete the work by 2022 or 2023. “The airfield is at capacity,” Mr Philips warned. “We are constrained and we rapidly need this infrastructure and we need it now.”
Mr Philips made it clear that the plan is not meant to counter suggestions that Dublin Airport build a new terminal.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross has commissioned a report that among other things will examine getting a private sector player to run a third terminal at Dublin in competition with DAA.
Mr Philips argued that this has never been tried anywhere else and warns of “huge risks” in attempting it in an airport on which the Republic depends hugely.
He pointed out that DAA’s plan is ready to go and deals with problems highlighted by airlines.
Carriers such as Aer Lingus have complained of problems such as parking stand shortages as passenger numbers at Dublin mushroomed by 60 per cent since 2011 to 30 million last year.
This led to friction between DAA and Aer Lingus last year. However, both the airline and State company have since indicated that relations have improved.
Mr Philips said in Friday's interview that the DAA has had positive talks with companies such as Aer Lingus and Ryanair about its plans.
The company will submit proposals to industry watchdog the Commission for Aviation Regulation later this month, giving airlines and other parties a chance to comment formally on them.
The regulator will set Dublin Airport’s charges for five years from 2020 in September 2019 and will take DAA’s need for new investment into account before making its decision.
DAA will borrow money to pay for the pier extensions, which will include enlarged security, immigration and baggage areas. It owes about €500 million to lenders at this stage.
Meanwhile, Mr Philips, who took over as DAA chief executive a year ago, confirmed that the company hopes work will begin shortly on its new runway, announced in 2016. Estimates of the cost at the time came to €320 million.
“The good news is that we’re in the tender process now for the contractors to provide that infrastructure and we hope to be awarding that contract next month, and we will commence building of that third runway towards the end of this year,” he said.
Mr Philips maintains it is more than 20 years since an airport in any major European city built a new runway.