Shane Ross appoints panel to hear airport charges challenge

DAA is appealing controversial ruling by regulator that it cut passenger levy by 15%

DAA maintains that it cannot pay for a planned €2 billion expansion of Dublin Airport, needed to allow it to handle up to 40 million passengers a year by 2030, if the charges are cut. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

DAA maintains that it cannot pay for a planned €2 billion expansion of Dublin Airport, needed to allow it to handle up to 40 million passengers a year by 2030, if the charges are cut. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Senior counsel Eoin McCullough will chair a panel that will hear Dublin Airport’s challenge to a controversial ruling by regulators that it slash passenger charges.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), which sets the fees Dublin Airport charges airlines for passengers, ruled in October that the airport should cut the levy to an average of €7.87 a head over the five years to 2024, a reduction of about 15 per cent.

Outgoing Minister for Transport Shane Ross confirmed on Monday that he has appointed a panel to hear an appeal by the airport’s owner, DAA, against the ruling, which the State company argues threatens its ability to fund a much-needed €2 billion expansion.

Mr McCullough, who has been a barrister for 35 years, will chair the panel. Hannah Nixon, outgoing head of the UK’s payment systems regulator, and Andrew Charlton, managing director of consultants Aviation Advocacy, will join Mr McCullough.

The trio must complete their work by May. The panel can confirm the CAR’s ruling or refer it back to the regulator for review, according to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Difference

The new charges will apply while the appeal is under way. If DAA’s challenge succeeds, airlines would have to pay the airport company the difference between the higher and lower fees for the passengers they carried from the start of the year, as well as paying higher charges after the process ended.

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 to 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 to 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.