Restrictions on new runway threaten to slow DAA’s recovery

Airport operator says it could lose 1.1m passengers by 2025 due to time limits

An Bord Pleanála decided that the new north runway cannot be used for landings or take-offs between 11pm and 7am. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

An Bord Pleanála decided that the new north runway cannot be used for landings or take-offs between 11pm and 7am. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

State-owned airport operator DAA has been one of the companies worst hit by the pandemic, due to restrictions on air travel. Last year is made a loss of €286 million and it has shed one-third of its staff via voluntary redundancies.

The easing of from July 19th was a welcome filip for the company, with the numbers travelling through Dublin and Cork ticking up, albeit still only a fraction of what they were in 2019.

The recovery to pre-pandemic levels of passenger traffic will take some time and the DAA will need a fair wind at its back to get the business back into shape.

A new runway, due to open in August 2022, should provide a major boost to the airport and accommodate capacity for growth in the years ahead.

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Instead, it could end up crimping the smooth operation of the airport. Restrictions attached to the 2007 planning permission for the runway, restrict aircraft movements between 11pm and 6am.

An Bord Pleanála decided that the new North Runway cannot be used for landings or take-offs between 11pm and 7am, while a cap of 65 aircraft movements right across the airfield, is to apply within the same time period.

This is a major problem for DAA, as a lot of airlines return aircraft between 11pm and midnight and there is (or was pre-pandemic) huge demand from business travellers for the so-called red eye flights. DAA argues that its capacity would be reduced by 43 per cent between 11pm and 7am, and would result in the loss of 1.1 million passengers by 2025 (these are pre-pandemic projections).

The conditions are under appeal to Fingal County Council, which has been designated as the noise regulator for the airport. Speaking on Wednesday to Inside Business, a podcast from the Irish Times, DAA chief executive Dalton Philips said he expects the result of that appeal to be appealed to An Bord Pleanála that it could be mid 2023 “or later” before there is a definitive ruling on this.

Tourism and foreign direct investment are hugely important to the economy, more so now given the impact of the pandemic. As the main gateway for tourists and investors, Dublin Airport is a vital national strategic asset. Which ever way the decision goes, it should surely be delivered before the middle of 2023.

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